According to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi intelligence has uncovered a plot to attack subway systems in the U.S. and Paris. He also indicated that the attacks were “imminent” and set to be carried out by foreign fighters for the Islamic State. Al-Abadi claimed the group is comprised of French and American citizens within Iraq. Additionally, when asked if the attacks had been thwarted, he responded “No.” The news of the threat came a day after the announcement by New York and New Jersey Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie of increased security measures on commuter rail lines, bridges and major transportation hubs in the two states.
In response to the prime minister’s announcement, U.S. intelligence sources have said they have no independent, credible evidence to support the claims. However, the NYPD is currently in contact with the FBI regarding the potential threat. A spokesperson for the National Security Council said the Obama administration is looking into the report. A similar threat against the New York regional commuter rail system emerged about a month ago, but the FBI, NYPD, Port Authority Police and MTA did not find evidence of a specific plot.
While authorities are taking the announcement seriously, intelligence officials are speculating why a world leader would share this type of intelligence with the media and public rather than reporting such threats through typical protocol. This is particularly unusual as such a declaration could cause the alleged plotters to push up the timeline of the attack or hinder efforts by authorities to thwart one from occurring.
As the validity of the threat is investigated, it is important to note that this type of attack is consistent with what would be expected from foreign fighters linked to the Islamic State. They have made calls to their followers to attack western targets at home and abroad, including the transportation sector. Specifically, foreign fighters with experience fighting alongside the Islamic State or lone wolves inspired by the group are likely capable of a low tech, high impact attack similar to the 2005 London Metro Bombings. Regardless, New York City always operates at a heightened state of security. As the threat from the Islamic State against the west continues to evolve, especially with the recent U.S.-led air strikes in Syria, there is a greater potential for retaliatory attacks against western interests.