Intelligence director warns of 'likely' Islamic State plot to strike in U.S. in 2016

By Andrew V. Pestano   |   Feb. 9, 2016 at 2:12 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- In testimony before Congress on Tuesday, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said the Islamic State will likely attempt an attack on U.S. soil this year and that North Korea has restarted a plutonium reactor.

Clapper said the Islamic State has been infiltrating migrant groups posed as refugees fleeing from Iraq and Syria in efforts to spread across borders. He warned the foremost terrorist threat to the United States is the Islamic State and its eight branches, including Boko Haram, which changed its name to the Islamic State West Africa Province after formally pledging allegiance in 2015.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Clapper delivered his annual testimony of assessments by intelligence agencies, where he said the Islamic State was "taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow," adding that that IS is "pretty skilled at phony passports so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers."

The Islamic State "will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016," Clapper said, also warning that al-Qaida affiliates "are positioned to make gains in 2016" -- specifically Yemen's al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and Syria's al-Nusra Front.

Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said it was unlikely the Iraqi city of Mosul would be liberated from Islamic State control in 2016.

In the hearing, Clapper also said North Korea made good on its 2013 announcement to refurbish and restart nuclear facilities as it has already expanded its Yongbyon uranium enrichment facility and restarted a plutonium reactor that was shut down in 2007.

"We assess that North Korea has followed through on its announcement by expanding its Yongbyon enrichment facility and restarting the plutonium production reactor," Clapper said. "We further assess that North Korea has been operating the reactor long enough so that it could begin to recover plutonium from the reactor's spent fuel within a matter of weeks to months."

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