The Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS, has sparked a war of words between two congressional candidates in Omaha, with Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford’s campaign accusing Republican Don Bacon of “fear-mongering” to win political points.
In turn, Bacon has accused Ashford of failing in his duty to protect Nebraska by not knowing that the Islamic State has allegedly targeted a Nebraska city for violence.
“If Brad Ashford doesn’t know ISIS is targeting Nebraska, how can we trust him to keep us safe?” a narrator darkly intones in a television ad released this week by Bacon’s campaign.
Ashford’s camp promptly accused Bacon of essentially doing the Islamic State’s bidding by spreading the group’s online propaganda that they said was intended to instill fear in Americans.
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“It is unbelievably shameless that a retired general who purports to live by an honor code would continue to use fear-mongering ISIS propaganda in a campaign ad,” said Sam Barrett, Ashford’s campaign manager.
At the heart of the dispute is an Islamic State “kill list” that swept social media and numerous websites last year and was covered in several local media outlets.
The Islamic State put out a list of thousands of Americans and more than 50 cities, including Bellevue, that the group claimed were targets for violence. Many of the names on the list came from information easily found on the Internet, according to the Wall Street Journal. Since then, additional lists have been circulated.
Police and defense officials have struggled with how to respond. They have notified many of the people on the lists, believing that they have a right to know. But they also worry that the Islamic State is using the lists to instill fear in America, according to the Wall Street Journal.
No one on the lists has been attacked by the Islamic State.
Bacon, who worked with military intelligence and who helped to formulate U.S. propaganda during a tour in Iraq, did not respond to repeated requests for interviews. Instead, his campaign put out a statement from Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, who said she originally told Bacon about the hit list.
“I am thankful that Gen. Bacon recognizes the seriousness of the threats facing the City of Bellevue,” Sanders said in a press release put out by Bacon’s campaign. Sanders, also a Republican, has endorsed Bacon.
In a telephone interview, Sanders said she learned about the hit list on social media. She then contacted the police chief, who told her that the list was old and that Offutt Air Force Base knew of its existence.
Sanders said she doesn’t talk about the hit list publicly, but she did share her conversation with the police chief with Bacon.
Sanders also said she does not know whether the Islamic State intended the list as a propaganda tool, but she said she believes that it cannot be totally disregarded.
“I didn’t hear about it in a briefing. I didn’t hear about it in a special meeting,” Sanders said. “I saw it on social media, so I can’t tell you where others have gotten their information.”