US Homeland Security chief says terrorists want a new 9/11 — here’s how the US is stopping them
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
- Elaine Duke, the acting US Homeland Security chief, warns that terrorists still want to carry out massive attacks like 9/11.
- In the meantime, terrorists are "happy" to carry out small attacks, like van or knife rampages, to retain money and followers.
- "Creating terror is their goal," Duke said.
Terrorists are "happy to have small plots" until they can carry out the next 9/11-style attack, America’s acting chief of homeland security has warned.
Speaking in London on Thursday, Elaine Duke said, as cited by the Daily Mail: "The terrorist organisations, be it ISIS or others, want to have the big explosion like they did on 9/11. They want to take down aircraft, the intelligence is clear on that."
However, groups such as the Islamic State are currently in an "interim" period in which large-scale attacks are getting harder to plan — so many are carrying out "small plots" such as van and knife attacks instead.
Duke said: "In the interim, they [terrorist groups] need to keep their finances flowing and they need to keep their visibility high and they need to keep their members engaged, so they are using small plots and they are happy to have small plots.
"Creating terror is their goal and so a van attack, a bladed weapon attack, causes terror and continues to disrupt the world — but does not mean they’ve given up on a major aviation plot."
Ricard Belis Garcia/ Twitter
Vehicle ramming has proved popular in Europe, where dozens have been killed in terror attacks since the start of this year. The Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, and Barcelona and Cambrils attacks all saw civilians killed and injured in van attacks.
How the US is stopping another 9/11
Duke said the US had "worked on some strong measures" that have prevented terrorists from planning and executing massive attacks.
"We have worked on some strong measures that we can’t talk about. We are trying to play the away game and that is working against them in their terrorist safe havens and homes," she said.
"We do have some terrorist groups on the move, you just saw the take-over of Raqqa and so if we can keep them declining and moving they have less time to sit and prepare."
Earlier this week, US-backed forces liberated the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital for the past four years. The city was one of the self-styled caliphate’s few remaining strongholds, and the group has continued to lose territory in Syria in Iraq this year, Reuters reported.
Terrorists have it "a little easier" in Britain
Countries with freedom of movement should also improve their border security systems, Duke said.
She said: "Because of the movement of goods and people, we have to raise the baseline worldwide, we can’t only consider our borders. We think the level of terrorist threat against the United States too is extremely high.
"I think that it is challenging for you [Britain] because you have the proximities to other countries, the ease of movement from some of the terrorist safe havens is a little easier for you."
Duke’s remarks at the US embassy in London came the same day Andrew Parker, MI5’s director general, warned that terrorists were plotting against the UK faster and more intensely than ever before. Lord Evans, one of Parker’s predecessors, also said in August that Britain was likely to experience 20 to 30 more years of terrorist threats.
Social media firms must step up to the challenge, Duke says
According to the Telegraph, Duke said: "There are a lot of social pressures and they [companies] want do business so they really have to balance between keeping their user agreements and giving law enforcement what they need.
"The fact they are meeting with us at G7 is a positive sign. I think they’re seeing the evidence of it being real and not just hyperbole."
She added: "Terrorists are strong, they are adaptable and the terrorist threat is the highest it has been since pre-9/11. We have got to have every tool that’s possible."
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