WASHINGTON, Aug 13 – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in a new terrorism warning bulletin, said violent extremists could view the reimposition of COVID-19-related restrictions following the spread of coronavirus variants as a rationale to conduct attacks.
The new DHS bulletin also warned of the risk of “targeted violence” around the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington and around religious holidays.
The department said that COVID-19-related stress has “contributed to increased societal strains and tensions, driving several plots by domestic violent extremists, and they may contribute to more violence this year.”
In a bulletin issued in May, DHS had warned that domestic extremists could take advantage of moves earlier this year to ease COVID-19 restrictions to launch attacks on a broader range of targets.
The latest warning bulletin noted that al Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula branch had recently released the first English-language version of its “Inspire” magazine in four years, which DHS says is evidence that violent foreign militants are still trying to inspire U.S. followers to engage in attacks.
DHS said it was promoting “authoritative sources of information” in order to “debunk” and if possible “pre-empt” disinformation.
DHS warned that media outlets linked to the Russian, Chinese and Iranian governments had “repeatedly” amplified conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19 and the effectiveness of vaccines.