On Sunday, the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committee in the U.S. said that the U.S. citizens are facing a higher terrorist threat compared to two years ago.
The same day al-Qaeda’s U.S. spokesperson urged Libyans to attack U.S. interests around the world in a response to the kidnapping of an al-Qaeda member by the U.S. According to Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Mike Rogers, who both appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, the leaks about U.S. surveillance programs has caused al-Qaeda groups to change their methods of communication, making it harder for the U.S., but arguably also for other countries, to detect potential plots in the early planning stages. According to Rogers, ‘the pressures on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous’. Rogers claimed that al-Qaeda has, among others, changed its strategy to focus on big attack to rather focus on smaller attacks. Furthermore, Feinstein said that the number of terrorist groups is unprecedentedly high at the moment and that they are in the possession of sophisticated and hard-to-detect explosives.
CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen, however, questions whether U.S. citizens are indeed less safe than a couple of years ago. According to a study by the New America Foundation the total number of militant suspects in the U.S. who are affiliated with al-Qaeda or with like-minded groups or motivated by al-Qaeda ideology has declined substantially between 2010 and 2013. Furthermore, ‘the number of individuals indicted for plotting attacks within the United States, as opposed to being indicted for travelling to join a terrorist group overseas or for sending money to a foreign terrorist group, also declined from 12 in 2011 to only 3 in 2013. He also points out that although recent attack plots in the U.S. were influenced by the ideology of violent jihad, they did not seem to involve the help from foreign terrorist organisation such as al-Qaeda.
Although a declining number of indictments does not mean that the terrorist threat has disappeared, the data on al-Qaeda-linked or –influenced militants in the U.S. suggests that there has actually been a decline in the terrorist threat over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, the conflict in Syria where al-Qaeda’s affiliates are the most effective forces and the renaissance of al-Qaeda in Iraq does indicate that current developments might increase terrorism threats in the near future.
On Monday, Ryan McGee, serving UK soldier, was arrested under the Terrorism Act after a ‘suspicious device’ thought to be a nail bomb was found in his family home on Mellor Street, Eccles, Greater Manchester last week. The 19-year-old serviceman was arrested by military police in Germany on suspicion of the unlawful possession of explosives, firearms and ammunition, and was brought back to Britain to be questioned.
The Greater Manchester Police found the device while executing a warrant in the soldier’s house on Thursday. The warrant was issued after a tip-off about images of sexual abuse on a computer in the residence.
Following the raid, his 20-year-old brother was also arrested on suspicion of possessing abusive images and the police also recovered ‘several items of literature which could be viewed by some as potentially inflammatory.’ These findings led to the arrest of the soldier in Germany and a search of his barracks. Officers have allegedly also found right-wing leaflets during the search. Both men have been released on bail.
On Monday, the Boko Haram insurgents staged one of their most risky attacks yet on a military base in northern Nigeria.
As a result a 24-hour curfew was imposed, cutting-off roads and closing airspace. Witnesses say the death toll is high, as they have seen ‘bodies with slit throats and corpses of insurgents burning in vehicles.’
The attack is a major setback for the Nigerian military. A week ago, they have bombarded forest hideouts of Boko Haram with air strikes and ground assaults in the hope to drive Boko Haram out of urban centres into remote rural areas.