DHS warns of increase in online activity from al Qaeda and ISIS affiliated groups following US withdrawal from Afghanistan

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday released a bulletin on terrorist threats, warning that al-Qaeda and ISIS-affiliated terrorists are increasing online activity to try to inspire attacks on their home country after the United States withdrew from Afghanistan.

“After the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, violent extremist media branches of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham (ISIS), have celebrated perceived victories over the United States. and encouraged their supporters and supporters to use violence to advance their goals, “warned the Department of Homeland Security in its latest Bulletin of the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS).

It went on to say that the foreign terrorist groups “are likely to continue to maintain a very visible online presence in an attempt to inspire US-based individuals to engage in violent activity.”

“The type of content we see ranges from videos to online magazines,” a senior homeland security official told CBS News. “The videos will very often contain very graphic and violent content, a technique used for years by Islamic State and al Qaeda-related media operations when seeking to inspire acts of violence.”

“It is very clear that the theme is promoted by media operations [associated with al Qaeda and ISIS] is to carry out attacks in the West. They are trying to encourage violence from lone wolves, “the official added.

But as of Wednesday, DHS indicated that it is not aware of any imminent and credible threat to a particular location in the United States.

Officials are also seeing an increase in publications from online magazines that encourage US-based actors and provide advice on various methods of attack. “In some cases, posts even provide explanations for types of tactics used” to stage an attack, the official added.

The bulletin also stated that ideologically motivated domestic extremists “continue to draw inspiration from and obtain operational guidance, including on the use of improvised explosive devices and small arms, through the consumption of information shared in online forums.” Counseling goes on to say that violent extremists could use encrypted messages to try to “obscure operational indicators that give specific warning of a pending act of violence.”

The agency also urged communities to be cautious when gathering for large gatherings ahead of the holiday season, although it noted that no credible or imminent threats have been identified.

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“We want people to go out and enjoy the holidays. We do not want people to be too scared, but we want them to be vigilant,” a senior homeland security official told CBS News. “We want to make sure that if people observe suspicious activities, then they report them to the local authorities.”

Meanwhile, DHS has continued to hear from law enforcement officials expressing “concerns that the broad sharing of false narratives and conspiracy theories that support the use of violence will continue to gain traction, resulting in individuals or small groups embraces violent tactics to achieve their desired goals. “

“DHS is concerned that increased violence, as well as targeted attacks on law enforcement, could strain local resources and challenge law enforcement’s ability to maintain the safety and security of communities,” the terror bulletin said.

The pandemic has created conditions that mean law enforcement must “deal with a more unstable threat environment at the same time as they deal with other issues in their community”, including “staffing challenges” as police departments struggle to recruit and retain officers.

NTAS bulletins are designed to illustrate current developments or trends regarding terrorist threats and should not be confused with an elevated alert warning of a credible terrorist threat or an impending alert warning of a credible, specific and imminent terrorist threat.

The bulletin follows up on one previous NTAS bulletin release released in August that is set to expire Thursday.

“Today we are broadcasting the fourth NTAS Bulletin since January 2021,” Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “The threat stream has not changed significantly, but this is an important product that keeps the public updated on threats facing the United States and stresses the importance of the public remaining vigilant and reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

Former Secretary David Pekoske issued the Biden administration’s first terror bulletin warning of an “elevated threat environment” across the United States following the inauguration of the president, weeks after the January 6 attack on the US capital.

Wednesday’s bulletin warns of calls for violence against “elected officials, political representatives, government facilities, law enforcement, religious communities or commercial facilities and perceived ideological opponents,” further reinforced by foreign intelligence services along with foreign and domestic terrorists.

DHS’s note comes as an extension of an order of Attorney General Merrick Garland heads the FBI and the Department of Justice to help protect school employees across the United States following an increase in violence against them. This direction followed a letter from the National School Boards Association sent to President Joe Biden about the “immediate threat” that local schools and boards face.

Home officials tell CBS News that while the majority of online content that threatens public officials “tends to be of a general nature,” there are specific and credible threats against members of Congress, public health officials, teachers, and other public officials. routinely handed over to the FBI.

Wednesday’s NTAS bulletin will remain in effect through February 8, 2022.

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