Washington: Citing the cases of two Pakistani Americans involved in the Mumbai terror attacks and the failed Times Square bombing, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned of the growing threat from homegrown extremism.
"Since 9/11, many of the terrorist threats facing the United States endure, but some are also evolving and transforming in ways that present new challenges," FBI director Robert Mueller said testifying before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday.
"Groups affiliated with al Qaeda are now actively targeting the United States and looking to use Americans or Westerners who are able to remain undetected by heightened security measures-as seen with the attempted airline bombing on Christmas Day 2009 and the failed car bombing in New York`s Times Square in May," he said.
Domestic radicalisation and homegrown extremism also appears to becoming more pronounced, based on the number of disruptions and incidents, Mueller said.
The FBI chief noted Pakistani origin US citizen David Headley was arrested in October 2009 in Chicago for planning terrorist attacks against a Danish newspaper and two of its employees.
"During the course of this investigation, the FBI collected intelligence that uncovered Headley`s operational role in the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, and connected him to a separate plot to kill an individual in Denmark."
"On January 14, 2010, a superseding indictment was filed against Headley relating to his conspiring with others to plan and execute attacks in both Denmark and India, and in March 2010, he pleaded guilty on all counts," Mueller said.
Recent plots - beginning in August 2006 with the attempted plan to commit attacks against US-bound aircraft using improvised explosives devices-suggest al Qaeda is also putting more emphasis on finding recruits or trainees from the West to play key roles for these homeland-specific operations, he said.
The failed attempt by Pakistani American Faizal Shahzad to detonate a vehicle rigged with explosive devices in Times Square in May 2010 was the first time FBI had seen Tehreek-e-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP), a Pakistan-based terrorist group, expand its operational focus from attacks within its immediate region to plotting attacks against the US homeland, Mueller said.
Threats from homegrown violent extremists - those who have lived primarily inside the United States and commit acts of violence in furtherance of objectives promoted by a foreign terrorist organisation, but who act without direction from a foreign terrorist organisation - remain a concern, he said.