Federal authorities warned Friday that the list of churches published by the Islamic State (ISIS) to attack on “Christian New Year” is a legitimate threat to holiday gatherings.
ISIS sympathizers “continue aspirational calls for attacks on holiday gatherings, including targeting churches,” warned a bulletin published jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. It was issued to law enforcement agencies and private security firms around the U.S., encouraging them to heighten awareness.
Nevertheless, U.S. law enforcement officials said there are no specific, credible threats. Instead, the bulletin was issued out of an abundance of caution given the public nature of the posted threats and the crowded gatherings expected during this holiday season.
The bulletin follows reports of a publicly-available list of churches published on a pro-ISIS social media app. The federal warning also described various signs of suspicious activity law enforcement should be aware of.
A user by the name of “Abu Marya al-Iraqi” posted a message in Arabic calling “for bloody celebrations in the Christian New Year,” announcing the group’s plans to utilize its network of lone-wolf attackers to “turn the Christian New Year into a bloody horror movie.”
The ISIS messenger’s reference to “Christian New Year” is unclear. It could be referring to New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, when the new year is celebrated in the West.
Yet the call for attacks on churches seems to fit better with a religious holiday, such as Christmas. In the liturgical calendar, the Christian New Year is the first Sunday in Advent (November 27), a date which had already passed by the time of the message. Since Advent is leading up to Christmas, the terrorists might have meant December 25th as “Christian New Year.”