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FBI warns of ISIS threat to Western Banks

The FBI’s Counterterrorism Division has issued an executive memo warning of the threat to Western banks from Islamic State terrorists. The memo entitled “Non-Specific Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Threat Extends to Western Financial Institutions” and dated July 26, 2016 warns that:

“Individuals inspired by the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) represent the most likely ISIL-associated threat to Western financial institutions. Although ISIL statements have not frequently specified financial institutions as targets, ISIL leaders have repeatedly admonished supporters against the need to “ask for anyone’s advice” or “seek anyone’s verdict” before attacking. Such guidance encourages ISIL supporters to be autonomous in selecting targets and modes of attack, limiting the need for explicit ISIL calls to attack those institutions.

  • On 26 June 2014, ISIL supporters tweeted a message bearing the logos of several US financial institutions and other US companies outside the financial sector. The message read “Any company in Arab countries which employs Americans is a legitimate target for every Muslim.”
  • In a 21 May 2016 statement, ISIL senior leader and spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani encouraged followers to intensify attacks in the United States and Europe during the month of Ramadan, which ended on 5 July 2016. Adnani released two similar statements in 2014 and 2015, encouraging ISIL followers to attack in their countries of residence and stating there is no distinction between civilian and military targets.
  • American think-tanks, politicians, and Islamic figures have also been mentioned or labeled as targets in ISIL media. While ISIL media may suggest specific targets, we assess actual attacks by ISIL- inspired individuals depend largely on attackers’ abilities, motivations, and target preferences.

ISIL supporters probably would consider Western financial institutions as priority targets if ISIL members were to call publicly for attacks against them. While not specifically mentioned in ISIL media, financial institutions and their employees remain at risk since ISIL has declared all people and places outside its rule as legitimate targets. The FBI urges vigilance on behalf of security officials and Western financial institutions; private sector partners play a critical role in identifying and reporting suspicious terrorist-related activity.

OODA Analyst

OODA Analyst

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