DHS report on how terrorists will target sporting events
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued an intelligence assessment (dated 2 February 2017) on the potential techniques and tactics that terrorists could use to target sporting events. The report is based upon detailed analysis of sporting event attacks overseas. The report’s key judgements note that:
- “Five separate plots and attacks against soccer matches or associated venues overseas between June and December 2016 demonstrate the continued interest by foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) and other violent extremists in targeting sporting events. Violent extremist messaging by FTOs, such as al-Qa‘ida and the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), shows that the prospects for media attention and the potential for mass casualties in such attacks likely enhance the attractiveness of targeting high-profile sporting events.
- Recent plotting underscores terrorist actors aspirations to target both individuals and venues affiliated with sporting events—including spectators, team members, security personnel both at the stadiums themselves or at associated venues—and suggests that security and response planning should consider the implications of attacks against potential secondary targets, in addition to attacks against the primary venue. We also assess that while security measures, such as the presence of metal detectors or armed security, at entrance checkpoints likely deterred some potential operatives from attempting to gain access to stadiums and arenas, plotting likely shifted to locations that were perceived to be less secure.
- Although terrorists’ interest in attacking sporting events is not new, the number of ISIL-linked plots in the last six months—two of which were directed by Syria-based ISIL operational planners—probably indicates a greater focus on these events by the group in the near future. Nevertheless, we assess that complex and coordinated attacks employing multiple tactics and teams of operatives, as seen in at least one recently disrupted ISIL plot, are more likely to occur in locations overseas, such as Europe and the Middle East, than in the United States, based on presence of potential operatives, ease of travel across borders, and proximity to the conflict zones, such as Syria and Iraq.
- The small number of examples of aspirational or disrupted plotting in the United States targeting stadiums suggests that sporting events are only one of many targets US-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) consider for attacks.* We further assess that the most likely scenario for such plotting in the Homeland would involve an HVE or small cell targeting attendees or uniformed security at such an event, likely outside the security perimeter, using simple tactics.”