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Sunday, May 26, 2024

FBI chief frets over possible Hamas-inspired attacks in US

Christopher Wray has warned lawmakers that the crisis in Israel is heightening the risk of Americans being targeted

FBI Director Christopher Wray has told US lawmakers that he sees a heightened risk of terrorist plots on American soil by individuals or groups who may be inspired by Hamas attacks against Israel.

“We assess that the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration, the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago,” Wray said on Tuesday in a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing. “In just the past few weeks, multiple foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks against Americans and the West.”

Read more: FBI targets Muslims after Hamas’s attack on Israel

Wray made his comments as Israeli forces escalated their incursion in Gaza in response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants, who killed an estimated 1,400 people and took hundreds of others as hostages. More than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed, reportedly including at least 50 when an Israeli airstrike targeted a Hamas commander in Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp.

At least some of the threats against US interests stem from groups seeking to retaliate for Washington’s support of Israel. In just the past two weeks, there have been 27 drone and rocket attacks on US military bases in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon has blamed militias sponsored by Iran, which supports Hamas financially as well as politically.

Read more: FBI’s Secret Watchlist unveils startling bias with 98% Muslim names

“Here in the United States, our most immediate concern is that violent extremists – individuals or small groups – will draw inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives,” Wray told the Senate committee. He added, “The reality is that the terrorism threat has been elevated throughout 2023, but the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole ‘nother level.”

Wray said the FBI has no indication that Hamas has the intention or capability to carry out operations inside the US. However, he said the agency hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Hamas or another foreign terrorist organization may exploit the war by attacking targets on US soil.

The FBI is conducting ongoing investigations of multiple individuals in the US who are affiliated with Hamas, Wray said. Historically, such individuals have been involved in facilitating or financing the group’s operations overseas, he added, but the agency is assessing how the threat may evolve to include attacks inside the US.

Republican lawmakers, such as Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas, have warned that failures by President Joe Biden’s administration to secure US borders have put Americans at greater risk of terrorist attacks.

In the federal government’s fiscal year that ended on September 30, US Border Patrol agents encountered 172 migrants who were flagged on the nation’s terrorist watch list. That compared with three such encounters during former President Donald Trump’s last full fiscal year in office.