United States – US federal authorities cautioned local law enforcement on the 23 Dec 16 to be aware that supporters of ISIS have been calling for their sympathizers to attack holiday gatherings in the United States, including churches, a law enforcement official said. The warning, issued in a bulletin to local law enforcement, said there were no known specific, credible threats. The notice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security was issued out of an abundance of caution after a publicly available list of US churches was published on pro-ISIS websites. "The FBI is aware of the recent link published online that urges attacks against US churches. As with similar threats, the FBI is tracking this matter while we investigate its credibility," the FBI said in a statement. ISIS sympathizers "continue aspirational calls for attacks on holiday gatherings, including targeting churches," CNN quoted the bulletin as saying. The notice describes different signs of suspicious activity for which police should be alert, it said.
United States/Russia – The United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to a campaign of harassment against American diplomats in Moscow, a senior US official said on the 30 Dec 16. The move against the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the US election. The Obama administration was also announcing a series of retaliatory measures against Russia for hacking into US political institutions and individuals and leaking information to help President-elect Donald Trump and other Republican candidates, two US officials said. Trump, who takes office on 20 Jan 17 has called for better relations with Russia. It was not clear if he will be able to immediately overturn the measures announced. The Russian diplomats would have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds, which are used by Russian officials for intelligence gathering, will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on the 30 Dec 16 the senior US official added. “These actions were taken to respond to Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that we have assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice,” the official said. The State Department has long complained that Russian security agents and traffic police have harassed US diplomats in Moscow, and US Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. “By imposing costs on the Russian diplomats in the United States, by denying them access to the two facilities, we hope the Russian government re-evaluates its own actions, which have impeded the ability and safety of our own embassy personnel in Russia,” the official said. The US official declined to name the Russian diplomats who would be affected, although it is understood that Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, will not be one of those expelled. New US sanctions on Russia are counterproductive and will harm a restoration of bilateral ties, Interfax news agency reported on the 29 Dec 16 citing Konstantin Dolgov, Foreign Ministry commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
United States/Pakistan – The US government has added the Al-Muhammadia Students (AMS) organization, or “the student wing” of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT or Army of the Pure), to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Additionally, the US added LeT leaders Muhammad Sarwar and Shahid Mahmood to the list of global terrorists. The designations highlight LeT’s role in international terrorism and its adeptness in using front organizations to skirt international sanctions. “Founded in 2009, AMS is a subsidiary of LeT and has worked with LeT senior leaders to organize recruiting courses and other activities for youth,” the State Department designation noted. State also noted that LeT has “repeatedly changed its name and created front organizations in an effort to avoid sanctions” since the US first added it to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 2001. LeT has mastered the art of using charitable groups to fundraise as well as promote its message and recruit. Since 2010, the US has identified the following groups as LeT fronts: Falah-i Insaniat Foundation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Al-Anfal Trust, Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, and Tehrik-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awwal. [See LWJ reports, US designates Lashkar-e-Taiba’s charitable front as terror group, and US adds 2 Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders, several aliases to terrorism list.] AMS is active on social media and uses Twitter and Facebook to fundraise and promote their message. AMS also holds rallies and seminars throughout Pakistan.
(To read the full LWJ Report: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/12/us-adds-lashkar-e-taiba-student-wing-to-terrorism-list.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28FDD%27s+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29)