The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has advised law enforcement officials around the country that terrorists and violent extremists are likely to attack while the Western nations are preoccupied with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The DHS posted its warnings of potential terrorist attacks in a bulletin circulated Monday, which was reported by ABC News.
“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,” the DHS said in a bulletin, derived from its Counterterrorism Mission Center and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office.
The DHS said they do not have information on any active plots underway, but the agency’s memo did include comments uncovered in a weekly ISIS newsletter in which it called for supporters to target health care systems in Western countries that are currently exhausted by the large number of coronavirus cases.
Another warning in the DHS memo included potential attacks by white supremacist groups that the DHS said could include targeting critical infrastructure and minority communities.
The DHS also noted efforts by both foreign and domestic extremist groups to post disinformation about the virus.
The warnings come as FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a video that the FBI remains at high alert.
“We’re here, and we’re going to stay here, to protect them, no matter what,” Wray said. “Because our criminal and national security adversaries sure aren’t going to take a day off — whether that’s for the coronavirus or, for that matter, anything else.”
Last week, reports revealed that the Islamic State newsletter al-Naba told its sympathizers not to travel to Europe and called on supporters within Europe to stay there as the coronavirus outbreak continues.