A leading Muslim advocacy group is pushing government officials to call the suicide plane crash in Texas “an act of terror,” saying that if a Muslim had been flying the plane there would be no hesitancy to call it terrorism.
On Thursday, Andrew Joseph Stack III flew a small plane into the IRS's four-story office building in Austin, killing himself and at least one federal employee. Before the incident, Stack allegedly left a series of messages on a website expressing his disgust with the IRS, saying at one point that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.”
“Whenever an individual or group attacks civilians in order to make a political statement, that is an act of terror,” said Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the faith, race or ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victims,” said Awad, adding in a statement that “if a Muslim had carried out the IRS attack, it would have surely been labeled an act of terrorism.”
In the hours after the crash, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters that the incident looked to be “a criminal act by a lone individual.” And while Acevedo refrained from calling it an act of terror, he said the FBI, which is heading the investigation, would make the judgment call on how to categorize the crash.
A spokesman with the FBI’s San Antonio office on Friday said that the FBI was handling the case “as a criminal matter of an assault on a federal officer” and that it was not being considered as an act of terror at this time.
The White House had yet to make a public statement about how it viewed Thursday’s incident, other than to say that both President Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had been notified and had asked to be kept apprised of the situation.
But two lawmakers from the area were quick to call the plane crash, which resulted in two seriously injured people and 13 people with minor injuries, an act of terror.
“Like the larger-scale tragedy in Oklahoma City, this was a cowardly act of domestic terrorism,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) in a statement.
And Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), at a press conference following the crash, told a reporter that “it sounds like it [a terrorist attack] to me.”
McCaul, who is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorist Assessment, added that he would be pushing the committee to look at how federal buildings can be made safer from plane attacks.
“This was obviously a deliberate, intentional attack on a federal building,” said McCaul “It’s something that I’ll be working with the police chief and the FBI to get to the bottom of this and to find out how we can better protect the American people.”
But some members - like the ranking Republican of the Homeland Security Committee Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) - are still on the fence as to whether the attack should be labeled as a terrorist act.
"I am reserving judgment to see whether he had any link whatever to any questionable group or organization," said King in a statement to The Hill on Friday.
By Jordy Yager