WASHINGTON (CNN) – U.S. Intelligence officials tell CNN they are tracking at least a few hundred individuals as potential homegrown violent extremists; in addition to the handful of foreign fighters they believe have returned to the U.S. from Syria.
Wednesday night, in the wake of strikes on terrorist targets inside Syria, federal officials are asking local police departments around the country to be on high alert for retaliatory attacks on the U.S. by radicalized individuals.
Jeh Johnson, a Homeland Security Secretary, said, “We have to be vigilant in looking for, and countering attempts at violence extremism here at home.”
A nationwide joint DHS/FBI bulletin obtained by CNN says it faces “an increased challenge in detecting terrorist plots underway by individuals or small groups acting quickly and independently, or with only tenuous ties to foreign handlers”
The bulletin reminds law enforcement to look for potential red flags of homegrown violent extremists, such as:
- Changes in appearance and behavior
- Weapons training
- Using religion to sanction violence
- Frequenting extremist websites
According to Philip Mudd, a CNN Analyst, “These are very emotionally affected people; they are probably looking at violent videos or photographs on the internet. So you have to get there between the day they start thinking about an act of violence and the day the might act on it. That emotion can switch on very quickly, so the time frame that an investigator has to find somebody like this might be measured in a matter of weeks.”
Adding to concerns, just this week, a senior ISIS leader for the first time called for ‘Lone Wolf’ attacks on the U.S. ISIS Leader: “Rig the roads with explosives for them. Attack their bases. Raid their homes. Cut off their heads. Do not let them feel secure. Hunt them wherever they may be.”
On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Johnson visited a large Somali, American community in Columbus, Ohio, working with leaders there to help counter violent extremists here at home.
“We’ve got to depend on state and local law enforcement and community organizations like this to help us establish linkages into communities where this kind of thing may occur,” said Johnson.