ABC News’ Jason Ryan and Pierre Thomas report:
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have issued a intelligence bulletin warning about homegrown violent extremists possibly retaliating after al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar Al Awlaki was killed Friday in a U.S. drone strike.
The bulletin provides background on Awlaki’s reach and extensive propaganda efforts and mentions Samir Khan, a U.S. citizen who was also killed in a vehicle with Awlaki. Khan was responsible for much of AQAP’s recent propaganda and was the author of their online jihadist magazine Inspire.
The bulletin notes there is no current information about retaliatory acts that are known to be under way, but says the FBI and DHS are concerned about “lone wolves” possibly striking out in response to Awlaki’s death.
“We assess the death of [Awlaki], in the near term, could provide motivation for Homeland attacks — particularly from HVEs [homegrown violent extremists] seeking retaliation,” the bulletin says. “We are also concerned that the operational guidance and instructions provided in past issues of Inspire magazine could be used by HVEs to prepare independent attacks. We assess that [Awlaki's] standing as a preeminent English-language advocate of violence could trigger HVEs to take violent action to avenge his death.
“We assess that HVEs — who may view [Awlaki's] death as justification for attacks in the Homeland — are the most likely element to attempt a near-term attack,” it says. “While we expect to observe a significant increase in violent extremist rhetoric calling for retaliation, detecting and disrupting HVEs before they strike — if any attempt to do so — will continue to present challenges to law enforcement, due to the often isolated nature their actions.”
The bulletin notes that as word of the Awlaki’s death spread there was an extensive interest on jihadist chat rooms and websites known to be sympathetic to terrorist activities.
“We assess US and Western-based sympathizers may attempt to exploit [Awlaki's] death due to his popularity as a violent extremist whose speeches and writings are widely available on the Internet,” the bulletin says. “It is possible [Awlaki] will be portrayed as a martyr in a ‘US war against Islam’ in order to encourage individuals to take violent action.
“We are also concerned about the possibility that AQAP could attempt to retaliate directly against the Homeland for the death of [Awlaki] and Khan, although we have no information to indicate they are currently planning to do so,” it says. “AQAP external operations to date have focused on the aviation subsector, and the group has also revealed its interest– highlighted in two issues of Inspire magazine — in carrying out an attack against the United States using unconventional means, such as chemical or biological agents. ”
The bulletin urges law enforcement to be vigilant to report any unusual or suspicious activity that could be associated with attack planning.