Police in northern Virginia are taking seriously threats from the Islamic State groups of Iraq and Syria to carry out a terrorist attack in Virginia over the Halloween weekend just ahead of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election.
An increased law enforcement presence could be seen in the form of police patrolling the area around Fair Oaks Mall, located 20 miles outside of Washington, D.C., and multiple police cruisers parked outside of Mosaic Shopping Mall in Fairfax on Saturday.
A similar scene also played out at the Tysons Corner Center mall in terms of on-the-site police officers.
The unspecified threat to retail centers came from intelligence which multiple law enforcement and intelligence sources believe may be linked to the Islamic State group, ABC News reported.
According to the sources, the credibility of the tips is still being assessed.
The Arlington County Police Department on Friday issued a statement on the matter.
“The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) is aware of information circulating regarding a non-specific, unconfirmed threat to shopping centers,” the department said in the statement.
“There is no specific or identified threat to our region. As always, the public is encouraged to remain attentive as you about your normal routine, particularly in areas where large crowds of people typically gather such as shopping centers, restaurant districts, religious services, and public transportation hubs to name a few.”
MESSAGE FROM THE ARLINGTON COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT REGARDING POTENTIAL PUBLIC SAFETY THREAT. pic.twitter.com/O9AcOLzy5r
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) October 29, 2021
In a Friday news conference, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis noted the potential threat and his department’s response to it.
“Yesterday we received information concerning potential public safety impacts to malls and shopping centers across the region,” Davis said, according to WUSA-TV.
“As you all know, we take any and all information very seriously and as we work to corroborate it, we have increased our police presence throughout the county to include major thoroughfares, shopping plazas and shopping malls.”
— Kolbie Satterfield (@KolbieReports) October 29, 2021
Federal authorities remained somewhat tight-lipped on the matter.
“We have no comment,” the FBI said in a statement, according to ABC. “However, we would remind you the FBI takes all potential threats to public safety seriously and we take all appropriate steps to determine the credibility of any information we receive.”
Crime and terrorist analyst Brad Garrett told WHSV-TV the increased police presence at Springfield Town Center, in Fairfax County, indicates the threat is being taken very seriously.
“If this is a non-specific threat, they clearly are going to have to use the blanket approach to all the logical places where somebody could launch an attack or some sort of violent event at a mall or shopping center,” he said.
Beyond simply looking to scare people attempting to enjoy the Halloween weekend, the Islamic State group could also be trying to frighten the public ahead of Virginia’s contentious and razor-thin gubernatorial contest between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin. Voters cast their ballots on Nov. 2.
The Islamic State group’s threats to Virginia come on the heels of a senior Pentagon official telling Congress on Tuesday that the group’s Afghanistan affiliate could have the ability to attack the United States within six months to a year.
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