FBI fears ‘coordinated attack’ on US homeland

Washington — A surge of confidence by supporters of the Islamic State terror group — reflected in a series of online threats against Europe combined with its deadly attack on a concert hall in Russia — is giving security officials in the United States cause for concern.

National security and law enforcement officials have long been worried about small groups or individuals drawing inspiration from terror plots around the world to conduct attacks in the U.S. But FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to tell lawmakers Thursday that something more worrisome may be in the works.

“Now increasingly concerning is the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, akin to the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russia Concert Hall a couple weeks ago,” Wray warns in prepared testimony, using an acronym for the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate.

Just days ago, police agencies across Europe boosted security after media outlets linked to Islamic State, also known as IS or ISIS, posted calls to attack stadiums hosting Champions League soccer matches this week in Madrid, London and Paris.

The FBI warning also signals a potential shift in U.S. thinking about the possible reach of IS and its Afghan affiliate, which claimed responsibility for the March 22 attack on the Crocus City concert hall outside Moscow. The attack killed 145 people.

Following the incident, the Department of Homeland Security said it had no specific or credible intelligence to suggest IS had the ability to threaten the United States. 

And multiple U.S. military and intelligence officials have said that while IS has ambitions to carry out attacks, there have been no indications IS or any of its global affiliates has the capability to reach into the U.S. homeland.

The terror group is “struggling in many ways to mount a major capability that is relevant to the United States,” said National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid recently. She spoke during an appearance on the In the Room podcast with terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Other warnings have focused on the threat to U.S. targets outside the United States.

“ISIS-Khorasan retains the capability and will to attack U.S. and Western interests abroad in as little as six months and with little to no warning,” General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia, told a Senate committee hearing last month.

For now, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is urging Americans to be wary.

“The U.S. continues to be in a heightened threat environment,” a DHS spokesperson told VOA Wednesday in response to questions about the IS threats to various European venues.

“DHS continues to work with our partners to evaluate the threat environment, provide updates to the American public, and protect our homeland,” the spokesperson added. “We urge the public to stay vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activity to their local law enforcement.”