Terror Threat Snapshot – April 2017

The United States House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security recently released their monthly Terror Threat Snapshot, which highlights, “the persistent terror threat to the United States” via a series of infographics and bullet points designed to provide the most up-to-date information on Islamist plots and attacks in the U.S. and throughout the world.  As aforementioned in previous discussions of this resource, its threat assessment is confined to the Islamist/Jihadist sphere, and does not include threats from any other extremist milieu (for more information on why this is so problematic, see this article).  However, the report provides invaluable details about the latest in the U.S. fight against Islamist extremism and terrorism around the world.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) released the report on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, and said,

One year after the heinous attack in Brussels, ISIS continues to leverage the power of lone-wolfs targeting the West—most recently at the heart of the British government. We must remain clear-eyed about the threats we face. Islamist terror has been franchised to followers not only in strongholds like Iraq and Syria, but in all corners of the world, and they are using everything from sophisticated explosives to their own vehicles to kill innocent people. We must intensify our efforts to deny these terrorists safe havens abroad, while more aggressively countering jihadist radicalization efforts here in the United States.

The report comes during a time in which the new administration has renewed its efforts to fight the threats of Salafi-Jihadi inspired terrorism; on numerous occasions, President Trump has stated that “defeating ISIS” is his number one foreign policy priority.  Just yesterday, on April 13, 2017, the U.S. targeted an IS [Islamic State] cave network by dropping a MOAB on Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.  The MOAB, or GBU-43/B Massive Ordinance Air Blast (colloquially known as the Mother Of All Bombs) is the largest conventional weapon in the U.S. arsenal, weighing 21,600 pounds, and was deployed from the back of an MC-130 cargo plane by Air Force Special Operations Command.

The April 2017 Terror Threat Snapshot has a similar format to previous months, and a comparison between it and its March edition provides useful insight in terms of last month’s terrorist activity. The number of total IS-linked plots to attack the West is up from 183 last month to 191 this month, with an additional 4 plots in Europe and 4 more targeting westerners outside the U.S. and Europe.  There were no plots in the U.S. discovered this month.  As the Key Points section of the report highlights, one of the plots in Europe was,

an ISIS-inspired attack on our British allies in the heart of London [that] left one American and three Britons dead. One year after the heinous ISIS attacks were carried out in Brussels, the group claimed a car and knife attack that took place on Westminster Bridge and outside the British Parliament, a bustling, tourist-filled part of town and the seat of the British government.

Another key point is worth noting in particular: a merger in the “Islamic Maghreb” created Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin from four separate terrorist organizations.  The merge was announced March 2, and according to the report,

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s [AQIM] Sahara branch recently merged with Ansar Dine, Al Murabitoon, and Katibat Macina (also known as the Macina Liberation Front) to form Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, a move to which Al Qaeda central supposedly lent its support. Undoubtedly a threat to the Sahel, this merger bolsters Al Qaeda’s presence and strengthens its coordination in the region.

Just three days after the merger was announced by Iyad Ag Ghaly, the former leader of Ansar Dine and the head of the new organization, an attack on a military camp in Boulikessi, Mali killed 11 Malian soldiers and wounded 5 more.

April’s report also highlighted the continuing rise in homegrown jihadi extremists; a review of March and April reveals that there have been an additional 2 cases of homegrown jihadists identified in the last month, and the total number since 9/11 now stands at 204.

Similar to past months, the report opens with a summary page of infographics, and then is followed by sections entitled “Key Points,” “Homegrown Islamist Extremism,” “ISIS Terror Plots Against the West,” and “The Campaign Against Islamist Terror,” which is divided into subsections about ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Select Attacks from other Islamist Terror Groups.  The report is extremely specific, and is a very useful aggregate of jihadist terrorist events that have happened around the world in the last month.

For more resources related to Jihadist/Islamist domestic terrorism, check out the Featured Topic on this subject at the Homeland Security Digital Library. Other Featured Topics that might be of interest include: Domestic Terrorism: Extremism, Lone Wolf Terrorism, Suicide Bombers, Domestic Terrorism/Extremism: Single Issue/Special Interest, and Nuclear Weapons.