U.S. warns of extremism after Texas synagogue attack, bomb threats in colleges

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A law enforcement vehicle is parked at a school in the area where a man believed to have taken people hostage at a synagogue during services that were being streamed live, in Colleyville, Texas, U.S. January 15, 2022. REUTERS/Shelby Tauber/File Photo

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Feb 7 (Reuters) - The United States faces heightened threats from extremist groups domestic and foreign, underscored by last month's hostage standoff crisis in a Texas synagogue and bomb threats at many historically Black colleges and universities, a U.S. government agency said on Monday.

The warning comes after some schools across the United States cancelled classes and issued shelter-in-place orders last week. Investigators ultimately failed to turn up any explosives. read more

"Threats directed at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other colleges and universities, Jewish facilities, and churches cause concern and may inspire extremist threat actors to mobilize to violence," the Homeland Security Department said in a bulletin.

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Last month, British-born gunman Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, including its rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker. He brandished a gun and held them hostage for 10 hours. The standoff ended in gunfire, with all four hostages released unharmed and the suspect dead. read more

"Supporters of foreign terrorist organizations have encouraged copycat attacks following the January 15, 2022 attack on a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas," the federal agency added.

The U.S. intelligence community warned months ago of a threat that racially motivated violent extremists, such as white supremacists, would seek to carry out mass-casualty attacks on civilians.

The United States remains in a heightened threat environment, the department said on Monday.

"Foreign terrorists remain intent on targeting the United States and U.S. persons, and may seek to capitalize on the evolving security environment overseas to plot attacks."

The agency also warned that the Islamic State or its affiliates may issue public calls for retaliation due to a U.S. special forces raid in Syria last week that led to the death of the group's leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi. read more

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru Editing by Matthew Lewis

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