HOMELAND Security is warning Americans that terrorists could attack during coronavirus lockdowns — and are encouraging people to remain “vigilant” and be aware.
Grocery stores, gas stations or even coronavirus testing sites could be targeted by terrorists, according to federal authorities.
“Now is the time to engage community businesses and other stakeholders to encourage vigilance and awareness,” Brian Harrell, assistant director for infrastructure protection for the department, told ABC News.
The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a notice issued on Friday that “it is imperative that law enforcement be alert for potential individuals triggered by the pandemic to inflict further harm, and [that agencies] provide residents with information that can augment community safety and security.”
"There are currently no imminent or credible threats, there has been an increase in online hate speech intended to incite violence and/or use the ongoing situation as an excuse to inflict hate.”
The notice went on to say the "potential threat environment" has changed, with "public gathering areas" transitioning "to COVID-19 mobile screening stations, gas stations, still-open houses of worship, grocery stores, and other retailers that have been approved to do business.”
Weeks ago, the FBI, Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center issued a similar statement that noted grocery stores and businesses that are still running could be targeted by terrorists, according to ABC News.
Both ISIS and Al Qaeda have seen the coronavirus as a threat, but some fighters see the pandemic as an opportunity to win over more supporters and strike harder than before.
Al Qaeda suggested in a statement in March that non-Muslims should use their time in quarantine to learn about Islam.
But ISIS said in its newsletter in mid-March that its followers should show no mercy and launch terror attacks in this time of crisis.
Homeland Security officials said that conspiracy theorists are claiming the coronavirus outbreak is a “government-perpetrated hoax,” while other “conspiratorial narratives [are] assigning blame for the pandemic to a Jewish conspiracy or China.
Security officials said this strengthens “the risk of retaliatory violence against Jewish Americans and Asian Americans.”
The department also said that some white supremacists and anti-government extremists are also claiming the U.S. government’s response to the virus could “hasten societal collapse” and “lead to a race war.”
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