National Security

DHS cites arrival of Afghan evacuees, COVID measures as potential motivators for extremists

The Department of Homeland Security issued a new terror threat bulletin Wednesday, warning of potential violence motivated by COVID-19 public health measures and the arrival of Afghan evacuees following the U.S. withdrawal from the country. 

The bulletin continues themes from the last National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin issued in August pinning domestic violent extremists (DVEs) as the greatest terror risk to the country, a group that includes anti-government extremists and racially or ethnically motivated extremists.

The bulletin said ethnically motivated extremists are “exploiting recent events in Afghanistan,” including the arrival of some 70,000 Afghan evacuees into the country. 

“Some DVEs have attempted to use the relocation of Afghan nationals to the United States to exacerbate historical DVE grievances over immigration and the American Muslim community,” the bulletin states. 

The withdrawal could also be a motivating point for some international terror groups, as “al-Qa’ida 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 the use of violence by their followers and supporters to further their objectives.”

Their efforts could include inspiring U.S.-based individuals to engage in violent activity, the bulletin said. 

But it went on to focus on a number of domestic issues that could spur violence, particularly as vaccine disinformation and COVID-19 restrictions continue to rile extremists.

“If a new COVID-19 variant emerges and new public health restrictions are imposed as a result, anti-government violent extremists could potentially use the new restrictions as a rationale to target government or public health officials or facilities,” the bulletin states.

DHS also warned the upcoming holiday season could be targeted by extremists.

“Mass gatherings associated with several dates of religious significance over the next few months could provide increased targets of opportunity for violence, though there are currently no credible or imminent threats tied to any dates or locations,” the agency writes.

Tags Afghan refugees COVID-19 measures Department of Homeland Security domestic terrorism domestic violent extremists extremist threats

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