FBI asks faith communities to be vigilant in wake of war in the Middle East

By RealWV staff,

In a joint press release on Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a public service announcement asking faith communities to be aware of potential threats in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Israel.

They say foreign terrorists organizations may seek to “foment violence in the West.”

“The terrorism threat in the Homeland has remained heightened throughout 2023,” says the release, “but recent events have increased the possibility of potential attacks against individuals and institutions in response to developments in the Middle East.”

Specifically, they say “the volume and frequency of threats to Americans, especially those in the Jewish, Arab American, and Muslim communities in the United States, have increased, raising our concern that violent extremists and lone offenders motivated by or reacting to ongoing events could target these communities.”

For example, they cite hoax bomb threats against houses of worship and violent rhetoric on the internet encouraging attacks against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab American communities. They also highlight the stabbing and killing of a six-year-old Palestinian-American child in Illinois recently, which is being investigated as a hate crime.

“While we have no specific information that foreign adversaries are plotting attacks against the homeland, some are seeking to take advantage of the conflict, calling for violence in furtherance of their respective goals. On 13 October, al-Qaida media called for support to HAMAS through attacks against American bases, airports, battleships, and embassies in predominantly Muslim countries. Iranian media outlets have issued and/or amplified various types of mis- and dis-information online about the conflict in ways that risk deepening resentment and evoking strong emotional responses among English-speaking audiences. These outlets are utilizing verifiably doctored or mislabeled images and video footage, inaccurate translations, and misleading content about the conflict with the apparent intent to stoke passions, accelerate the process of radicalization, and lead individuals to engage in targeted violence.”

Whitney Barnhart, Community Outreach Specialist for the FBI in Pittsburgh, said in an email to faith leaders on Thursday, “We ask members of the public to call 911 in the event of an imminent threat and immediately report anything they consider suspicious to law enforcement or contact their local FBI Office: [www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices.]www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices. Tips can also be submitted to tips.fbi.gov or 1-800-CALL FBI.”

*Cover photo courtesy of the FBI.

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