says no precise threat to homeland from Islamic State
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[August 30, 2014]
By Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States
is not aware of any specific threat to the U.S. homeland from Islamic
State militants, the Department of Homeland Security said on Friday
after Britain raised its international terrorism threat level.
Islamic State militants and their supporters, however, "have
demonstrated the intent and capability to target American citizens
overseas," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a
statement. He noted that DHS took steps over the summer to
strengthen security at overseas airports with direct flights to the
Johnson said he has spoken to UK Home Secretary Theresa May about
Britain's decision to raise its terrorism alert to the
second-highest level. It is the first time since mid-2011 that
Britain has been placed on this high of an alert level.
May said on Friday that Britain increased its threat level because
militant groups in Syria in Iraq were "planning attacks against the
West" and some attack plots were "likely" to involve foreign
fighters from Britain and elsewhere in western Europe.
However, UK authorities also have said they have no knowledge of any
"imminent" plot to attack British targets.
U.S. and European officials have said that because of relaxed border
controls between European Union countries, it is difficult to track
travel to Syria and Iraq by would-be foreign fighters. Often
suspected militants are not identified until after they return to
their home countries.
U.S. authorities are particularly concerned about former foreign
fighters in Syria and Iraq who have British or other European
passports that would allow them to enter the United States with
instant visas and minimal security vetting.
U.S. and European
officials have estimated that as many as 100 Americans have traveled
to Syria or Iraq to fight with militants, along with four or five
times as many Britons and hundreds of other Western Europeans.
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"This is a threat that the United States has been focused on. We've
been coordinating closely with our allies, both the Brits, but
others in Europe, about countering this threat and mitigating it,"
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing.
There was no plan to raise the U.S. threat assessment level, he
While the United States once characterized threats under a system of
color coded warnings, the Obama administration abandoned that system
and now issues warnings targeted to particular transport or economic
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Eric Beech
and Andre Grenon)
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