America Faces 'Greater Threat' Amid Christmas Season and Massive Religious Gatherings

America Faces ‘Greater Threat’ Amid Christmas Season and Massive Religious Gatherings, DHS Says.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States faces a “most threatening environment” from domestic extremists and individuals inspired by foreign terrorist groups as the holiday season arrives, the Department of Homeland Security warned Wednesday.

While DHS said it had no credible information on a specific threat, the agency warns in its latest national terrorism advisory bulletin that mass gatherings for upcoming religious holidays could be potential targets, including by individuals and organizations looking to exploit the resentment over recent and pandemic closures. events such as the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The Homeland continues to face a diverse and challenging threat environment,” he said.

This is the fourth time this year that the agency has issued a newsletter, highlighting the perceived danger of a volatile mix of domestic extremists, often motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, and local extremists inspired by foreign groups.

It reflects a shift in focus on al-Qaida and other organizations following the creation of the DHS after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

It also occurs in an environment that has been overloaded by online propaganda and conspiracy theories, as well as anger at the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic. DHS has warned that extremists will pose a “significant threat” until at least 2022.

Timothy Langan, deputy director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, made similar points last week in an appearance before the House intelligence committee. He said the threat of domestic terrorism has “increased significantly” in the past 18 months, and that the agency is currently conducting some 2,700 investigations into violent domestic extremists.

“The greatest terrorist threat facing our homeland is posed by lone actors in small cells, who typically radicalize online, seeking to use easily accessible weapons to strike easy targets,” Langan said.

The language of this latest newsletter is similar to previous ones but adds language based on recent events. It warns that foreign groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State celebrated the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and may use it to foment violence by their supporters.

At the same time, some domestic extremists have tried to use the resettlement of Afghan refugees in the United States to incite hatred against Muslims.

DHS has said it is working with the FBI, state and local law enforcement, and their foreign counterparts, and has also increased grants and training for community-based prevention programs to address the threat.

From 2010 to 2020, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race have committed 18 deadly attacks in the United States, killing 70 people in attacks that typically focused on places of worship, including Charleston and Pittsburgh. , according to the FBI.