Cities in America and western Europe are being eyed as Islamic State (IS) militants’ future targets and President Barack Obama needs to take action, two top politicians have warned.
Without offering specifics on any threats or suggestions on how to confront them, the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees urged the White House to work to prevent the Islamic State extremists from launching attacks on US soil.
The bipartisan pair shared a dire warning against the IS group, which now has control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, has killed civilians from that region and beheaded American journalist James Foley.
“This is a group of people who are extraordinarily dangerous,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the upper house intelligence panel. “And they’ll kill with abandon.”
In a separate TV interview, Mike Rogers, leader of the House Intelligence Committee warned the leaders of the Islamic State, sometimes also called ISIL or ISIS, are looking for a spectacular attack that would help them raise money and recruit more fighters.
“ISIL would like to have a Western-style attack to continue this notion that they are the leading jihadist group in the world,” said Republican Mr Rogers.
The politicians, who have access to some of America’s most sensitive secrets and receive regular detailed briefings from the nation’s spy agencies, offered dire predictions of an attack on the United States or its European allies if the militants were not confronted.
“They have announced that they don’t intend to stop,” Ms Feinstein said. “They have announced that they will come after us if they can, that they will, quote, ’spill our blood’.”
The threat, Mr Rogers said, could include Americans who have trained with IS fighters. He said there were hundreds of IS-trained Americans who could return to the US with their American passports.
“I’m very concerned because we don’t know every single person that has an American passport that has gone and trained and learned how to fight,” he said.
Mr Rogers said US intelligence agencies were tracking Americans known to have travelled to the region. If they helped Islamic State fighters, he said, they should be charged under laws that ban Americans from aiding terrorists.
The top Democrat on Mr Rogers’ intelligence panel, Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, was more sceptical. He said more needed to be known before judging whether extremists planned to commit terrorist acts in the US any time soon.
He said the group’s priority now seemed to be to hold on to territory it had gained, rather than export violence.
“It is extremely urgent, but you don’t just rush in,” Mr Ruppersberger said.
It was a view shared by Adam Smith, a Washington state Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee: “We can’t simply bomb first and ask questions later,” he said.