BY: CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — The threat of racially or ethnically motivated terrorism, especially white supremacist terrorism, is “on the rise and spreading geographically,” according to a new report by the State Department, as the threat from ISIS and other radical Islamist terror groups evolves.
The annual report, released Wednesday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, details by country and terror organization the threats emanating around the world.
While 2019 saw some banner accomplishments in counter terrorism, according to Pompeo, like the killing of ISIS’s founding leader and the fall of its caliphate, the threat of terrorism has morphed and expanded to new regions, especially the Sahel in northern Africa.
This year’s report put even greater focus on white supremacist terrorism, just weeks after the department designated a white supremacist group as a foreign terrorist organization for the first time. In 2019, there were several high-profile attacks motivated by the ideology, including the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shooting in March; the El Paso, Texas, shooting in August; and the Halle, Germany, synagogue shooting in October.
That kind of “violence (is) both on the rise and spreading geographically, as white supremacist and nativist movements and individuals increasingly target immigrants; Jewish, Muslim, and other religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex (LGBTI) individuals; governments; and other perceived enemies,” the report said.
According to U.S. ambassador-at-large for counter terrorism Nathan Sales, that threat has expanded since 2015, but he praised the Trump administration for taking it on.
“It took this administration coming into power to really prioritize stepping up efforts against this threat here in the case of the FBI and DHS, but also abroad where this department comes into play,” Sales said.
In April, the State Department designated the Russian Imperial Movement, a white supremacist group, as a “foreign terrorist organization” for the first time, barring U.S. individuals from supporting the group.
While that action was unprecedented, President Donald Trump has also downplayed the threat of white supremacist groups, telling reporters last year, “It’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”
The State Department also announced Wednesday that it was increasing its reward for information leading to ISIS’s new leader, Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, who is also known as Abu Muslim al-Turkmani. The U.S. government will now provide up to $10 million for details leading to his whereabouts, Pompeo announced, adding, “We’re undaunted in our pursuit of bringing terrorists to justice.”
Although ISIS’s caliphate fell and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019, the threat from the terror group has “evolved,” according to Sales — calling it now “a global network that reaches every inhabited continent” and continues to conduct and inspire attacks.
That includes in Iraq and Syria, once home to ISIS’s caliphate, where Sales said, “We have to keep our eye on the ball … to prevent any ISIS remnants from reconstituting, to prevent them from continuing attacks.”
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