The Denver Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned Colorado and Wyoming law enforcement of the potential threat that jihadists could start wildfires as a form of terrorist attack.
The situational information report (.pdf), dated May 7, references an article in the winter issue of Inspire, a jihadist webzine produced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The terrorist organization, an al Qaeda affiliate, has been called the most significant terrorist threat facing the United States by American national security officials, most recently FBI Director Robert Mueller.
AQAP has taken credit for the underwear bomb plot on Christmas Day 2009 as well as the cartridge bomb plot of October 2010. In early May, The New York Times reported that a suicide bomber dispatched by the Yemen-based terrorist organization to attack an American airliner with an upgraded underwear bomb was actually a Saudi double agent. The agent was able to provide the bomb and intelligence information regarding AQAP leaders and operatives, locations, and tradecraft to allied intelligence organizations, including the Central Intelligence Agency.
The attack method advertised in Inspire, however, is cruder than these previous plots and targeted for would-be jihadists without sophisticated technical know-how.
“There is a portion of the magazine dedicated to attacking the United States by wildfires,” the FBI report explains.“The article instructs the audience to look for two necessary factors for a successful wildfire, which are dryness and high winds to help spread the fire.” The report was distributed to the FBI’s Denver Division and the Bureau’s intranet; the Colorado Information Analysis Center, a DHS-recognized fusion center; and Wyoming law enforcement. (The full report, which was posted Tuesday, can be accessed at Public Intelligence, a website which posts government and corporate documents considered in the public interest.)
Within the article, “It Is of Your Freedom to Ignite a Firebomb,” referenced by the FBI report, the author, the AQ Chef, notes that natural wildfires are incredibly destructive to property and valuable forest while also overwhelming first responders to the point where casualties occur. The article goes on to argue that under the right conditions, jihadis could detonate an “ember bomb” that could lead to wildfires that spread faster and cause greater amounts of destruction. Bomb instructions follow. The article also provides would-be jihadis with a map of the United States highlighting the country’s most vulnerable areas to attack.
Throughout issue after issue of Inspire, AQAP has called on jihadists within America to carry out small, less sophisticated attacks, individually if need be.
The original creator, editor, and publisher of Inspire, Samir Khan, a native of North Carolina, was killed during a drone strike in Yemen. The target of the strike was Anwar al-Awlaki, another American citizen whom the Obama administration accused of being an operational asset of the AQAP as well as its chief propagandist.
(For more on the Colorado Information Analysis Center, check out April’s cover story, “A Model of Intelligence Sharing”)
♦ Photo by Texas Military Forces/Flickr