The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security have reportedly identified restaurants, theaters, churches, and sports arenas as possible targets of Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-inspired jihadists and homegrown violent extremists, urging law enforcement to remain vigilant for potential attacks against civilian venues.
Both the FBI, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and DHS have learned that the extremists have shifted their focus from law enforcement, military, and government venues to civilian facilities, reports CBS News.
In a joint bulletin sent out to law enforcement agencies across the country on August 31, the two government agencies said that “analysis indicates that homegrown violent extremists, and ISIS inspired terrorists, appear to have shifted their focus to target attacks on civilian venues,” adding, “These sorts of venues include places like restaurants, theaters, churches, and sports arenas, with less focus on law enforcement, military and government facilities,” notes the news agency.
“The bulletin said that according to analysis, more than 75 percent of homegrown violent extremists disruptions and attacks over the last 12 months have focused on civilian targets,” it adds.
Citing an unnamed law enforcement source, CBS News points out that as less secure and easily accessible soft targets, terrorists prefer civilian facilities.
“Attackers may be more familiar and comfortable with those venues,” notes CBS, continuing, “The source said that this is an important distinction because it shows they may be altering their priorities.”
Nevertheless, the source highlighted the need for “continued vigilance of law enforcement and military,” noting that “the timing of the bulletin was not meant to coincide with the upcoming 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”
The Islamic State has no qualms urging its followers to attack civilians. Some “kill lists” that were distributed by its supporters online earlier this year contain the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of ordinary American citizens.
More than 2,000 New Yorkers were mentioned in one list and about 1,500 Texans in another.
In anticipation of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic State called on its supporters to carry out violent attacks against civilian and military targets within the United States and Europe.
The Islamic State and other jihadi groups do not distinguish between combatants and civilians when they attack. The terrorist group is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in various countries.
During Ramadan this year, jihadists, the majority of them affiliated with the Islamic State, killed an estimated 421 people and wounded at least another 729 in nearly 15 countries. The majority of victims were civilians.