ISIS terror threat to U.S. shopping malls, retail centers have DC police on high-alert

Police and federal authorities in northern Virginia went on high alert after picking up intelligence regarding a threat to area shopping malls and retail centers near the U.S. Capitol over the weekend involving ISIS.

According to reports, police planned to bolster their presence patrols through Halloween and into Election Day in Virginia, which is Tuesday, CBS News noted.

“We have increased our police presence throughout the county to include major thoroughfares, transit hubs, shopping plazas, and shopping malls,” said Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis on Friday.

According to a federal intelligence agency head this week, the terrorist organization is pressing for so-called “lone wolf” attacks which are carried out by individuals without any material support from the main organization.

“Law enforcement officials said they are acting out of an abundance of caution, and as they learn more about the threat, the increased law enforcement presence could be extended through Tuesday’s election,” CBS News’ Catherine Herridge reported.

“Right now we’re seeing a dramatic increase — or an increase — in online activity by media operations associated with different al Qaeda elements and Islamic State,” John Cohen, the intelligence chief for the Department of Homeland Security, noted, according to Herridge.

“It’s just our responsibility to have a greater presence, to be more aware and to ask the community to have their eyes and ears peeled for suspicious activities,” Davis added, according to the report.

Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, which is known as ISIS-K, may be able to develop a capability to carry out attacks against the United States within a year, according to a senior Defense Department official in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The panel’s chairman, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), asked Colin Kah, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy, if he concurred with an assessment made recently by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley that “there may be a resurgence of international terrorism emanating from the region within 12 to 36 months.”

“I think the assessment depends on which group we’re talking about,” he responded.

“I think the intelligence community currently assesses that both ISIS-K and Al Qaeda have the intent to conduct external operations, including against the United States, but neither currently has the capability to do so,” Kahl added.

“We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between 6 or 12 months,” the DoD policy chief went on. “I think the current assessments by the intelligence community is that Al Qaeda would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability, and … we have to remain vigilant against that possibility.”

Another witness, Joint Staff Director of Operations Lt. Gen. James Mingus, also said he agreed with Milley’s previous assessment of an ISIS terror threat but did not mention Kahl’s statement, The Post reported.

Kahl’s fellow witness, Joint Staff Director of Operations Lt. Gen. James Mingus, told Reed he concurred with Milley’s assessment of the terror threat but made no mention of Kahl’s statement.

ISIS-K claimed responsibility for a major deadly attack outside the international airport in Kabul during the chaotic late August withdrawal and evacuation from Afghanistan by the U.S.

That attack killed 13 U.S. military personnel and 169 Afghan citizens while wounding dozens more.

And earlier this month, U.S. officials said that the suicide bomber involved in the attack was in an Afghan prison near Bagram Air Base but was released by Taliban fighters during an offensive that toppled the Afghan government.

In June, a report from the United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team indicated that the terrorist group had a base core of between 1,500 and 2,200 fighters in and around Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nangarhar province, which are located east of Kabul.

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