The Department of Homeland Security warned Tuesday that online extremists are calling for a “copycat” Uvalde, Texas, school attack as the agency braces for potential violence set off by major events over the next six months.
The Robb Elementary School massacre, which saw an 18-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15-style rifle kill 19 children and two teachers, is also a focus of disinformation and conspiracy theories, the DHS said in its latest National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin.
“Individuals in online forums that routinely promulgate domestic violent extremism and conspiracy-laden content have praised the May 2022 shooting at elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and encouraged copycat attacks,” the bulletin said.
“Others have seized on the event to attempt to spread disinformation and incite grievances, including claims it was a government-staged event meant to advance gun control measures.”
Events like the November midterm elections and the US Supreme Court’s anticipated overturning of abortion rights ruling Roe v. Wade may “be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible target,” according to the bulletin that expires Nov. 30.
“These targets could include public gatherings, faith-based institutions, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, US critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents,” the bulletin said.
DHS continues to view lone offenders and small extremist groups as the “primary threat of mass casualty violence” in the US, which remains in a “heightened threat environment,” the bulletin said. But foreign adversaries could still look to amplify the disinformation and conspiracy theories that are fueling dissent, DHS added.
The bulletin outlined what it called “a dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment facing the United States” after violence in Uvalde, the April 2022 attack on the New York City subway system and the racist attack in a Buffalo grocery store last month that left 10 people dead.
Disinformation about current events “could reinforce existing personal grievances or ideologies, and in combination with other factors, could inspire individuals to mobilize to violence,” the memo said. Aside from domestic terrorism, adversaries like Russia, China and Iran could fan the flames to weaken the US position in the global community, according to DHS.
Meanwhile, international groups such as al Qaeda continue to be a threat, with the terrorist organization having called for knife and vehicle-ramming attacks in America and Europe to avenge the death of group members, DHS said.
The threat situation is increasingly “dynamic” because of a broad range of grievances, a DHS official told reporters ahead of the bulletin’s release. For example, the overturning of Roe v. Wade — foreshadowed in a leaked draft decision — could lead to violence from pro-abortion or anti-abortion extremists, the official said.
The bulletin comes as DHS, which was formed after the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks, is undergoing an “urgent review” of its anti-violence efforts in the wake of the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings, Yahoo! News reported Tuesday.
With Post wires
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