Video of Donald Trump accusing Barack Obama of founding ISIS goes viral days after Moscow attack

By Abby Amoakuh

Published Mar 25, 2024 at 01:52 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

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Following the attack on a Moscow concert hall on Friday 22 March 2024 that saw the deaths of at least 137 people, I went onto X, formerly Twitter, to find first-person accounts from people who were on the site during the horrific incident. What I found instead was some of humanity’s worst trolls. But, maybe one should expect nothing less while scrolling through X these days.

What was unfolding before me was a mixture of conspiracy theories and a general lack of empathy regarding the worst terrorist attack in Russia in 20 years. However, one theory in particular stuck out to me: Did former US President Barack Obama create ISIS with the help of Hillary Clinton? Let’s uncover this complete gibberish together.

What happened in Moscow on Friday 22 March 2024?

On Friday 22 March 2024, attackers armed with guns and incendiary devices opened fire at random at Crocus City Hall in Moscow. The auditorium was filled with many concertgoers ahead of a performance by the band picnic.

However, what transpired instead of a musical performance was gunmen dressed in camouflage clothing opening fire on the audience with automatic weapons.

Footage produced by eyewitnesses and obtained by CNN shows concertgoers screaming and ducking for cover behind cushioned seats. Other videos show people smashing a large wall of windows outside the concert venue to escape the gunfire.

At least 137 died in the attack and more than 100 were injured.

The four suspects, who were arrested following the atrocities, face a potential life sentence. The attack also raised questions about Russia’s moratorium on the death penalty, with several senior officials calling for it to be lifted.

The four gunmen were identified as Dalerjon Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, Shamsidin Fariduni and Muhammadsobir Fayzov.

Who was behind the Moscow attack?

The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attack and posted content to prove it on social media and its official news agency Amaq. Following the incident, the organisation published a photo of the four attackers it said had “dealt a strong blow to Russia with a bloody attack.” The post also detailed how the group had planned and conducted the assault.

The US and other Western intelligence agencies have further confirmed that the attack was probably carried out by the Khorasan branch of IS, or Isis-K, which mainly operates in Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia.

The actions are seen as retaliation against Russia for its government’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, as well as for helping the current president, Bashar al-Assad, stay in power. ISIS has long threatened to strike Russia over this matter.

Nevertheless, President Vladimir Putin has insinuated that Ukraine was behind the attack that took place on Friday night. These accusations were strengthened by many Russian nationalist commentators and ultraconservative hawks, who are now pushing the idea that Ukraine executed the terror incident in light of the ongoing war between the countries.

Despite multiple Western agencies working to discredit these remarks as false and propagandistic, the shooting was quickly politicised, and disinformation about it rapidly spread on social media.

A lot of binary thinking about politics also propelled netizens to peddle conspiracy theories that ISIS was aligned with the US since both organisations can easily be identified as enemies or opponents of the Russian state. These conspiracies included falsely claiming that ISIS had never attacked the US and its allies, that it had no clear incentive to attack Russia, and that the US and ISIS had been closely cooperating for many years.

One particular theory zoomed in on a clip from 2016 in which former US President Donald Trump accused then-president Barack Obama of being the founder of ISIS.

During a campaign speech in Florida in 2016, he accused Obama and nominee Hillary Clinton of founding the group, stating: “ISIS is honouring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He is the founder of ISIS, OK? He’s the founder. He founded ISIS. And I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”

After doubling down when a conservative radio show host tried to clarify his position, Trump eventually dismissed his own comments as “sarcastic.”

Nevertheless, the clip was found and quickly disseminated by various pro-Kremlin actors across social media, positioning it as the pivotal evidence that the US was behind the attack, with the two prominent Democrats heading up the operation.

While X has since embedded notes and warnings that the video is misleading and that Trump has retracted his comments, hundreds of these posts are still flooding around the platform and are being liked and shared thousands of times.

Is there any link between the US and ISIS?

The US, just like the UK, has provided extensive support to the Syrian government’s opposition during the ongoing civil war. This led to the countries and their allies supporting and arming a group of rebels they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups. They later evolved into the Islamic State. Of course, this does not mean that the US created ISIS, as it would be difficult to place a direct correlation between their support of Syrian rebels and the terror group that we know today. Nevertheless, some of the US’s Gulf allies played a role in it as then vice-president Joe Biden acknowledged in 2014.

Russian nationalists and members of the Kremlin frequently use tragedies like these to push political propaganda and disparage their enemies. Nevertheless, it needs to be remembered that disinformation campaigns like these pollute our already fragile information ecosystem, distract from the actual crimes that took place, and dishonour the victims by not blaming the actual perpetrators.

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