The biggest terrorism threat Americans face is from violent extremists inspired by Islamic terrorist organizations like ISIS, al-Queda, Hamas and Iranian-financed groups, FBI Director Christopher Wray told U.S. senators Tuesday.
Wray also said the FBI is actively looking for such extremists who are in the country, and arrested one last week in Houston, thwarting Iranian-financed assassination attempts made against dissidents and high-ranking U.S. officials on U.S. soil.
Wray testified before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday about “threats to the homeland” after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel and after he told reporters that Hamas posed a threat to Americans on U.S. soil. He also did so after U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended the greatest number of known, suspected terrorists in U.S. history this past fiscal year.
“The reality of the terrorism threat has been elevated since 2023 but the reality of the ongoing war in Middle East has raised a threat of [a terrorist] attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level,” Wray testified. Since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, “we assess the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes we have never seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago.
“In just the past few weeks, multiple foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks against Americans and the west. Al-Queda issued its most specific call to attack the United States in the last five years. ISIS urged its followers to target Jewish communities in the United States and Europe. Hezbollah has publicly expressed its support for Hamas and threatened to attack U.S. interests in the Middle East. And we’ve seen an increase on U.S. military bases overseas carried out by militia groups backed by Iran.”
The most immediate cause for concern, Wray said, “is that violent extremists … will draw inspiration [from Hamas] to carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives,” including targeting Jewish Americans.
The FBI arrested a man last week in Houston, Texas, “who’d been studying how to build bombs and posted online his support for killing Jews,” the BI director added.
Wray didn’t elaborate on more details.
The FBI-Houston office confirmed the individual arrested is Sohaib Abuayyah. The Houston Chronicle reported “a person with that name had been charged on suspicion of unlawful possession of a firearm by an immigrant who had been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa, according to records filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.” The redacted complaint alleges the man was a 20-year-old Jordanian accused of “contacting others with a radical mindset” and was charged with “conducting training with weapons and planning a possible attack.”
Wray said in addition to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists operating in the U.S., “we cannot and will not discount the possibility that Hamas or another foreign terrorist organization may exploit the current conflict and conduct attacks here on our own soil.”
He said the FBI is conducting multiple investigations into Hamas-related threats in the U.S.
“But it’s not just Hamas,” he said. “The world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranians, for instance, have directly, or by hiring criminals, mounted assassination attempts against dissidents and high-ranking current and former U.S. government officials, including right here on American soil.”
In his written testimony filed with the Senate committee, Wray said the number of FBI domestic terrorism investigations has more than doubled since the spring of 2020. As of September 2023, the FBI has been conducting roughly 2,700 domestic terrorism investigations and roughly 4,000 international terrorism investigations.
The written testimony also states that the FBI has “seen an increase in reported threats to Jewish and Muslim people, institutions, and houses of worship here in the United States and are moving quickly to mitigate them.”
It also expresses concern about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the stated intent of ISIS and al-Qaeda “to carry out or inspire large-scale attacks in the United States.”