Top intelligence official: ISIS to attempt U.S. attacks this year

Updated 2:39 PM EST, Tue February 9, 2016
James Clapper (L), director of National Intelligence, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 9, 2016.  / AFP / Saul LOEB  (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
James Clapper (L), director of National Intelligence, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 9, 2016. / AFP / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May).
Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks.
One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî.
His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack.
He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group.
Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems.
All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017.
Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June.
Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself.
ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty.
ìThe judge will now deci
Greater Manchester Police
A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May). Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks. One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî. His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack. He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group. Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems. All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017. Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June. Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself. ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty. ìThe judge will now deci
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FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
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FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
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(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 
The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold.
 / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold. / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
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Story highlights

James Clapper said that ISIS was infiltrating refugees escaping from Iraq and Syria

Clapper warned that ISIS and its eight branches were the No. 1 terrorist threat

(CNN) —  

Top U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that ISIS was likely to attempt direct attacks on the U.S. in the coming year and that the group was infiltrating refugees escaping from Iraq and Syria to move across borders.

ISIS “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who was also at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, estimated that violent extremists were active in about 40 countries and that there currently exist more terrorist safe havens “than at any time in history.”

Clapper warned that ISIS and its eight branches were the No. 1 terrorist threat, and that it was using the refugee exodus from violence in Iraq and Syria to hide among innocent civilians in order to reach other countries.

Clapper said ISIS was “taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow,” adding that they were “pretty skilled at phony passports so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers.”

ISIS fighters have reportedly seized Syrian passport facilities with machines capable of manufacturing passports.

The testimony follows the director of National Intelligence’s release of the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

The assessment notes that “approximately five dozen” ISIS-linked people were arrested in the U.S. during 2015.

Clapper said that more than 38,200 foreign fighters, including at least 6,900 from Western countries, have traveled to Syria from more than 100 countries since 2012.

On the counter-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria, Stewart said it was unlikely that the Iraqi city of Mosul would be liberated in 2016.

READ: Terror threat in Europe ‘as high as it’s ever been,’ officials say

While the assessment calls ISIS the “preeminent terrorist threat,” Clapper also said that “al Qaeda affiliates are positioned to make gains in 2016.”

Clapper called the Yemen-based al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the Syria-based al Nusra Front the “most capable al Qaeda branches.”

The testimony also touched on the Iran nuclear deal, cybersecurity and cyber-espionage, North Korea’s nuclear and missile program and Russia’s military build-up.

On North Korea, Clapper expressed concern about the January nuclear test and Saturday’s satellite launch, saying that the country was “committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that’s capable of posing a direct threat to the United States.”

Speaking on the nuclear deal with Iran, Clapper said there was no evidence that Tehran was violating the terms of the agreement but said “we in the intelligence community are very much in the distrust-and-verify mode.”

The assessment warns that Iran may seek to use detained American citizens as “bargaining pieces to achieve financial or political concessions.”

With regards to Russia, Clapper said that “despite its economic challenges, Russia continues its aggressive military modernization,” noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “the first leader since Stalin to expand Russia’s territory.”

Clapper also raised cybersecurity as a major concern, saying, “China continues cyberespionage against the United States,” and warning that non-state actors like ISIS are developing a cyber capability.

Stewart added that cyberattacks by state actors such as Russia and China target U.S. defense personnel, networks, supply chains and critical structural information.