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Terrorist organizations do not stop their activities while the world is confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. Violent extremists could seek to take advantage of the pandemic by carrying out attacks against the U.S, warns a memo sent by the Department of Homeland Security to law enforcement officials around the country.
“Violent extremists probably are seeking to exploit public fears associated with the spread of COVID-19 to incite violence, intimidate targets and promote their ideologies, and we assess these efforts will intensify in the coming months,” according to the intelligence bulletin, compiled by the agency’s Counterterrorism Mission Center and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office.
At this time, DHS said it has “no information indicating any active plotting is underway,” but that it has observed certain extremist groups, both foreign and domestic, looking to spread misinformation about the coronavirus.
At least one incident with this regard was already reported. An alert from the FBI’s New York field office showed intelligence gathered on racist extremist groups, including neo-Nazis, that were encouraging followers who contract COVID-19 to spread the disease to Jewish people and police officers, according to abcnews.go.com.
Among the activities by extremist organizations cited in the DHS bulletin is a clipping from a weekly ISIS newsletter, which called for supporters to carry out attacks against overburdened health care systems in various Western countries.
Another portion of the bulletin singles out activity by white supremacists online who the DHS says have “advocated for violence against a range of targets, including critical infrastructure and faith-based and minority communities — including Asian Americans in response to the COVID outbreak.”