DHS issues national terrorism alert warning of threat from violent extremists

The secretary of Homeland Security issued a new National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin Friday amid increased threats identified by the department amid the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions across the United States.

"The Homeland is facing threats that have evolved significantly and become increasingly complex and volatile in 2021," the bulletin, published Friday, said. "Violent extremists may seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions across the United States to conduct attacks against a broader range of targets after previous public capacity limits reduced opportunities for lethal attacks."

According to DHS, threats include those posed by domestic terrorists, individuals and groups engaged in grievance-based violence, and those inspired by foreign terrorists and other foreign influences. 

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Historically, DHS says attacks linked to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists have targeted houses of worship and crowded commercial facilities. Meanwhile, the agency said social media and online forums are increasingly spreading violent extremist narratives and influence, exacerbated by the impacts of an ongoing global pandemic. 

"Ideologically-motivated violent extremists fueled by perceived grievances, false narratives, and conspiracy theories continue to share information online with the intent to incite violence. Online narratives across sites known to be frequented by individuals who hold violent extremist ideologies have called for violence against elected officials, political representatives, government facilities, law enforcement, religious or commercial facilities, and perceived ideologically-opposed individuals," DHS wrote.

Authorities did not point to any specific plot, but DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are continuing to provide guidance to partners about current threats and have issued numerous intelligence assessments.

"Today’s terrorism-related threat landscape is more complex, more dynamic, and more diversified than it was several years ago," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday in releasing the new bulletin.

The latest update comes four months after another bulletin was issued just a few weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. 

"There is currently a heightened threat environment across the United States that is likely to persist over the coming weeks," DHS wrote on Jan. 27. "DHS does not have any information to indicate a specific, credible plot; however, violent riots have continued in recent days and we remain concerned that individuals frustrated with the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances and ideological causes fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors to incite or commit violence."

DHS asks the public to report any suspicious activity and threats of violence, including online threats, to local law enforcement, FBI Field Offices, or a local Fusion Center.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.