Special to WorldTribune.com
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is likely to attempt “direct attacks on the U.S. homeland” this year, top intelligence officials told Congress on Feb. 9.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, said ISIL is hiding jihadists among the wave of refugees escaping from Iraq and Syria.
ISIL is “taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow,” Clapper said, adding that the terror group is “pretty skilled at phony passports so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers.”
ISIL is said to have seized Syrian passport facilities with machines capable of manufacturing passports.
Clapper said ISIL and its affiliates remain the top terror threat. The organization is active in 40 countries and more terrorist safe havens now exist “than at any time in history,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told the committee that ISIL “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.”
Clapper also confirmed in his Feb. 9 testimony that ISIL has succeeded in making and deploying chemical agents, mainly mustard gas, in Iraq and Syria.
“[The Syrian government] has used chemicals against the opposition on multiple occasions since Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. ISIL has also used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent Sulfur mustard,” Clapper said.
While ISIL is considered the “preeminent terrorist threat,” Clapper added that “Al Qaida affiliates are positioned to make gains in 2016,” and named Yemen-based Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and Syria-based Nusra Front as the “most capable Al Qaida branches.”