U.S. officials have been sending out alerts and issuing warnings all week of the possibility of a “lone-wolf” terror attack on the homeland over the July 4 holiday weekend.
Counter-terrorism officials have boosted the security at national landmarks. Public events are getting extra attention, and a higher level of vigilance by the public is sought everywhere.
They cite the social media messages from ISIS sympathizers urging attacks during the Islamic month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, France has been taking action on the counter-terrorism front by deporting Muslim imams and shutting down mosques that espouse violence and “hatred.”
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 40 foreign imams have been removed from the country since 2012, including 10 this year.
The government official said foreign “preacher[s] of hate” will be deported” and their mosques “will be shut down” if found to be inciting hatred.
His vow to crack down on those fomenting hate followed the recent attack on a French gas factory by a suspected Islamic militant believed to have worked alone.
It was the second terror attack in France since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, where five were killed.
The International Business Times said other European leaders also admit to fighting radicalization of Muslims.
In France, authorities say a radical named Yassin Salhi, 35, confessed to killing his boss then pinning the severed head to a fence at the Lyon-area gas factory.
Authorities said the head was found with two Islamic flags.
The New York Times reported the July 4 weekend “has spawned particularly strong warnings about a potential attack.”
The report said attacks by individuals with no previous record pose a danger, although no specific threats had been identified.
“We’ve been through other periods of high threat, but this time is different because of the proven reach of ISIS into Europe and the U.S.,” Matthew G. Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in the Times report.
“Even in the absence of a specific plot, there’s reason for alarm given the number of people who seem to have been motivated by ISIS’ rhetoric and direction to carry out attacks against innocent people.”
Law enforcement in Washington, D.C., mobilized Thursday in response a report, which later proved unfounded, of shots being fired at the scene of the 2013 Washington Navy Yard shooting that left 12 dead.
One senior federal law enforcement official told the Times that ISIS is giving instructions to followers to: “Do anything you can. Go to an Army-Navy store and buy a knife and stab someone. Just do something.”
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter told reporters this week lone-wolf attackers inspired by ISIS are a real threat over the holiday period.
“In the era of social media, a phenomenon like ISIL, unlike al-Qaida of the old days, there doesn’t have to be and won’t necessarily be a command-and-control relationship between somebody who instigates an incident and ISIL as an organization,” he said.