More terror attempts in US in last 9 months than any year

07 July 2010 17:36  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--There have been more attempts by terrorists to attack the US in the last nine months than in any previous year, and chemical facilities remain a likely target, a top US security analyst said on Wednesday.

Fernando Keller, a senior threat analyst in the intelligence and analysis division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told a chemicals sector security summit that “the number of attempted terrorist attacks against the US homeland in the last nine months - most of them thwarted by the FBI - has surpassed those of any previous year”.

Most of the attempts do not come to public attention, he said, and those that do - such as the attempted airliner attack by the “underwear bomber” in December last year and the 1 May car-bomb attack in Times Square in New York City - have been unsuccessful.

Keller said that Al Qaida remains the number one terrorist foe of the US but that the nation also faces increasing threats and attempted attacks by home-grown jihadists and self-radicalized individuals.

Speaking to some 400 chemical industry executives at the 2010 Chemical Sector Security Summit, Keller said that the most dangerous threat to US chemical facilities would likely involve “a US-based violent extremist with no overseas connections”.

“This could be self-motivated lone actors who choose soft targets, and this would be the most difficult attack to disrupt,” he said.

He said that intelligence data obtained by US agencies show that Al Qaida and other terrorist groups remain intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capability, “and a successful attack on a US chemical facility could give them the mass casualties they seek”.

Keller said that recent trends in terrorist attacks worldwide indicate that preferred targets include commercial and government facilities, mass transit systems, railroads and aviation.

He said that the most likely attack on a chemical facility would be in the form of a truck bomb, but that combined arms tactics also have proven successful in recent terrorist assaults.

A combined arms attack involves the use of stand-off weapons such as mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, followed by a ground assault by rifle-bearing terrorists who also plant and detonate explosives to cause casualties and start fires.

He cited the three-day attack by Pakistan-based terrorists in November 2008 that hit hotels and other sites in Mumbai, India, as a recent example of a highly successful combined arms assault.

Saying that there has been “a massive increase” in the number of terrorist attempts against the US homeland in the last nine months, Keller said that “we are concerned that the influence of inspirational figures overseas, such as the US-born cleric Anwar Al Auqil, will increasingly motivate home-grown individuals here to violent extremism”.

He said that his department and other US intelligence agencies also are concerned that “a handful of individuals or small discrete cells will likely seek to mount attacks each year, even if only a small portion of that actually materializes into violent acts against the US homeland”.

Earlier on Wednesday, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told the industry executives that she supports a federal mandate for inherently safer technology (IST) to impose changes in chemical facility feedstocks or operations if needed to protect against terrorist assaults.

Cosponsored by DHS and industry associations in the Chemical Sector Co-ordinating Council, the security conference runs through Thursday.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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