- As Thailand blasts: More explosions strike Thai tourist towns
Donald Trump escalated his rhetoric against Barack Obama on Wednesday, dubbing the US president as the “founder of Isis”.
The Republican presidential nominee’s comments, made at a rally in Sunrise, Florida, came as Trump continued to face a backlash for hinting a day earlier that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, be assassinated by gun rights supporters.
“Isis is honoring President Obama,” Trump said of Islamic State. “He is the founder of Isis. He founded Isis. And, I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”
Trump’s declaration echoed an attack he made against Clinton last week, also in Florida, in which he said the former secretary of state “should get an award from them as the founder of Isis”.
Republicans have long sought to blame the turmoil in the Middle East on the Obama administration’s foreign policy, often criticizing the president for underestimating the threat posed by Isis. But Trump has routinely gone a step further by stating directly that Obama is sympathetic to terrorists.
The former reality TV star employed the same tactic on Wednesday, referring to the president by his full name – Barack Hussein Obama – and repeating it several times for emphasis of his claim that Obama had founded Isis.
The origins of Isis trace back to the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The group has been deemed an offshoot of al-Qaida, which carried out the attacks on 9/11. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant terrorist viewed as the founder of Isis, was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad in 2006.
Although Isis has expanded rapidly during Obama’s tenure, seizing in particular on the Syrian civil war, the administration has also made gains in its military campaign against the extremist group. US army lieutenant general Sean MacFarland said on Wednesday an estimated 45,000 fighters linked to Isis had been killed in the two years since the US-led military coalition against the network was launched.
Trump has not articulated a clear strategy against Isis, other than to threaten a ruthless bombing campaign and continuously push his proposal to ban Muslim immigration from the US.
He has also seized on recent terrorist attacks to revive conspiracies about Obama’s birthplace and religion.
Immediately after the 12 June mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 dead and 53 more injured, Trump said Obama “doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands”.
In addition to insinuating that Obama, a Christian, is secretly a Muslim, Trump has also falsely stated the president was born in Kenya when he was, in fact, born in Hawaii.
In the meantime, a series of blasts across Thailand targeted the tourist towns of Hua Hin, Phuket and other locations, leaving at least three dead and many injured.
They came hours after twin bombs killed one person in the seaside resort town of Hua Hin, near the capital Bangkok.
On Friday, the town was hit again by multiple blasts. Two explosions were also reported in the popular tourist destination of Phuket.
It comes as Thais celebrate a long weekend for Queen Sirikit’s birthday.
The string of blasts on Friday include:
- Two blasts in Hua Hin where one person has died
- Two blasts in Surat Thani where one person has died
- Two blasts in Phuket where it is unclear how many are injured
- One blast in Trang where one person has died
- One bomb has been defused by authorities
No group has said it carried out the attacks.
But the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says suspicion will probably fall on separatist insurgents who have been waging an armed campaign against the Thai military in the three southernmost provinces.
Guardian with additional report from BBC