by , and NBC News
ISIS, the Islamist terror group that now controls much of Syria and Iraq, poses an “extremely high” terror threat to U.S. targets, and has the bomb-making skills and foreign fighters needed to strike U.S. and other Western interests, according to multiple U.S. intelligence officials.
“While trying to rank threats or compare them to previous threat periods is a hazardous endeavor,” said one former U.S. counterterrorism official, “the current threat coming out of ISIS -- and Syria more broadly -- is extremely high.” While the opposition in Syria and Iraq is diverse, said the official, there are “sub elements” within it that are “especially worrisome because of their commitment to attack the West.”
Another senior counterterrorism official added that in recent weeks, “ISIS has accumulated tens of millions in wealth, large amounts of military equipment and ordnance, and has expanded the safe haven in which it operates.” During this same period, the number of potential U.S. targets in the region –- meaning U.S. military personnel -- has increased.
The FBI tells NBC News that it is investigating “a handful” of individuals who have traveled to Syria from the Minneapolis region.
British officials say their concern about domestic terrorism from ISIS and other foreign fighters in Syria is higher due to the larger number of British residents who have traveled back and forth to Syria. They estimate 400 to 500 British “foreign fighters,” including Muslim converts, have gone to Syria, and about two thirds have come back to the U.K.
Said one expert, “The number of potential attackers is significantly greater than we have seen from any other safe haven since 9/11.”
ISIS has also not been degraded by the kind of military action, including drone strikes, that has killed militants in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
“The lack of U.S-led disruptive activity means that elements in Syria and Iraq have greater freedom to plot than in any other safe haven,” said the expert.
FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has reportedly been investigating at least 15 young residents of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area over the past year, according to a spokesman with U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger reported Minneapolis Public Radio News (MPR).
An ad appearing on Craigslist Wednesday warned residents of San Diego of a new attack against the gay community in the wake of the Orlando, Florida terror attack early Sunday morning.
The screenshot of the ad, applauding was sent in to the local ABC News affiliate, 10 News, and local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating.
“Orlando was long overdue. Cleanse your community of the the filth that gives decent gay men and women a bad name. Those people were walking diseases, bug chasers, and thank god for AIDS and 9-11 and now Orlando. San Diego you are next …”The source of the ad was not revealed and it was not clear if it has yet been learned as law enforcement investigates. It did appear that the ad listed the age of the poster as 33 on the right side of the page. 10 News reported that the viewer that sent the screenshot in found the ad in Craigslist’s men-seeking-men section for San Diego. The post has since been flagged and removed.
The header of the ad read, “We need more Orlando’s (sic) (San Diego).”
Local military families are taking steps to protect themselves after the faces, names and addresses of about 100 service members, including some from San Diego, were posted online by a group called the Islamic State Hacking Division.
In the threat, the group asked that attacks be carried out against members of the military conducting airstrikes on ISIS.
One of the ships listed was San Diego-based aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
A local military spouse, who did not want to reveal her identity for safety reasons, told NBC 7 she was concerned as soon as she heard about the posting.
“It was frightening, very frightening,” the woman said. “My gut reaction, are we on that list because my husband is active duty?”
She said she and her active-duty husband changed their social media accounts and eliminated any pictures or references to the military. Their privacy settings are switched so only friends and family can see their accounts.
The DOD says there is no indication there has been a data breach. Many of the images of the service members can be found on public military websites.
But without specifics and with limited resources, the FBI says they can't protect every member threatened. The fear is that a lone wolf who sympathizes with ISIS might carry out an attack, similar to the one in Canada.
The question can't be ignored. Could what happened in Paris happen in San Diego?
His name is Tony Perry, the intrepid Los Angeles Times reporter who has been to Iraq seven times, to Afghanistan seven times. He's obviously a journalist who knows a lot about the threat posed by those who wish to cause harm.
Question one: Can this happen in San Diego?
"The FBI has said that San Diego is a target rich environment for terrorists ... ISIS capabilities and their level of brutally is evolving," Perry said.
San Diego ranks number four for the risk of homegrown terror, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The National Counter Terrorism Center also said San Diego County's large Arab and Muslim population, our proximity to the border and strong Military presence increase the chances of a terror attack and then there's this concerning the targeting of our Military.
Question two: It is two far fetched to ask if sleeper ISIS cells are already here?
"We have had people arrested in San Diego County who are on their way to Syria to fight on behalf of the Jehadists. So no, I don't think that's too far fetched. We're not out of the woods. We're in for what Obama said, we're in for a thousand year war and this is just the beginning of it."