US Intel Says 9/11 Anniversary ‘Could Inspire Domestic Violent Extremists’

A joint US intelligence bulletin obtained from news week has warned that foreign militant groups could use the approaching 9/11 anniversary, a year after the US military withdrew from the two-decade war that began in Afghanistan after the attacks, to target domestic violent extremists ( HVEs) to inspire.

The Sept. 2 bulletin, issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), explained that the three agencies “foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) and their Expect supporters will try to exploit the 21st anniversary of 9/11, the one year anniversary of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the recent death of overall AQ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in their messages, which may inspire some HVEs.

Zawahiri succeeded al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, who led the group until he was killed by US forces in a 2011 raid in Pakistan. Earlier last month, Biden announced that Zawahiri was killed by a US drone strike in Afghanistan in late July.

While DHS, FBI, and NCTC say they “monitor information from domestic and international partners to identify potential terrorist threats,” they said they are “currently not aware of any specific, credible 9/11-related threats” and have “no information” to suggest that al-Qaeda “advanced the homeland conspiracy or dispatched agents to the United States to carry out an attack.”

20th Anniversary, 9/11, New York, City
A police officer walks past One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero as the city commemorates the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2021 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The three US intelligence agencies “estimate that foreign terrorist media celebrating the 21st anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks will almost certainly complement existing anti-US narratives,” the bulletin said.

“Recent events, including the July 30, 2022 strike that killed overall AQ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the one-year anniversary of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, may be featured in the FTO’s 9/11 media releases this year play a prominent role and seek to increase domestic violent extremist (HVE) online engagement and support.”

Although the Bulletin noted that such extremists did not typically mobilize around 9/11, and that foreign militant groups have not yet specifically addressed this upcoming anniversary, “terrorist news was released on or nearer 9/11 supporting the attacks of the celebrate past years”.

And such media “can continue to serve as a source of inspiration for HVEs,” the bulletin says. An example of this connection was that of Ashiqul Alam, who unknowingly stole firearms and explosives from an undercover agent to attack Times Square in 2018. ‘ as stated in the bulletin.

Zawahiri himself has been in previous al-Qaeda publications that coincided with 9/11, including an hour-long video last year in which he discussed the attacks as well as the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the group’s activities in Africa. Media supporting al-Qaeda have also published 9/11-related content, as have outlets promoting the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group.

Though the Bulletin noted that this upcoming 9/11 may ultimately be less well known than last year’s 20th anniversary, intelligence agencies also warned of the unpredictable nature of domestic extremism.

“The individualized nature of radicalization and mobilization, coupled with the ability of HVEs to conduct attacks with little or no warning, limits our ability to provide advance warning of attacks conducted by HVEs,” the bulletin said.

news week has reached out to DHS and the FBI for comment. US Intel Says 9/11 Anniversary ‘Could Inspire Domestic Violent Extremists’

Rick Schindler

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