By Brian Maass

(CBS4) –The Department of Homeland security is warning that terrorist groups may try to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to attack already strained health care systems.

In a bulletin issued Mar. 23, and labeled unclassified, the agency warned, “Violent extremists are seeking to exploit public fears associated with the spread of COVID-19 to incite violence, intimidate targets, and promote their ideologies and we assess these efforts will intensify in the coming months.”

According to the bulletin, on Mar. 19, ISIS issued a newsletter “which contained calls for attacks in Western countries against healthcare systems that are strained by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The newsletter also included “directions for ISIS supporters to kill (non-Muslims) wherever you find them.”

The memo also says white supremacist extremists have advocated for violence against a range of targets, including critical infrastructure and faith-based and minority communities — including Asian-Americans — in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

White supremacist groups “also have called for infected individuals to intentionally spread COVID-19 in diverse neighborhoods and in religious institutions such as mosques and synagogues,” according to the bulletin.

DHS said it has “medium confidence” in its assessment. The agency said it did not have information about “active plotting.”

 

Brian Maass

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