Last week’s attacks in Brussels may well be a deadly harbinger of what’s yet to come. ISIS has already said as much, using a new video to call its fighters to jihad at a time of their choosing. We reported here that there may be as many as 400 trained ISIS operatives already in Europe ready to strike.
But now we know this is more than idle speculation. The question isn’t IF they’ll strike again, but WHEN.
Investigators are aware of multiple additional ISIS plots in Europe possibly linked to the Paris and Brussels networks that are in various stages of planning.
A combination of electronic intercepts, human sources and database tracking indicates several possible targets had been picked out by the ISIS operatives over the last few months since the Paris attacks, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials.
Since the attacks earlier this week, information found in a raided apartment, including maps, indicated other potential targets had been chosen, one of the sources said.
Other U.S. counterterrorism officials say there was chatter before the Brussels attacks indicating something was about to happen, but nothing specific enough to indicate where and when the attacks were going to happen.
Officials say some of the other attacks they have been concerned before with specific times and places picked out did not pan out, but the sources cautioned ISIS followers are opportunistic and flexible if a planned attack doesn’t get executed.
Officials fear there are dozens of potential and known ISIS operatives still in Europe they’re concerned about and some of them may overlap with the Paris and Brussels attackers.
One of the sources says plots haven’t been disrupted either because the information about the plots is too fragmentary or because investigators are trying to gather more intelligence. The source also stressed that the situation with the plots is very fluid and can change very quickly depending on the opportunity for the operatives some of whom have been trained by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
“There’s evidence these guys are floating around in Europe and haven’t been rounded up yet and hope to launch an attack,” one official said, adding, “there’s a constant drumbeat and fear something else is going to happen.”
“Intel doesn’t come in a neat form answering the who, what, where, when and why,” the official said. “We rarely are operating with a full utility belt.”
Well that’s comforting, isn’t it? We pick off one or two here and there, but like a multi-headed hydra they grow anew. And just wiping out the dens in Syria and Iraq will only solve part of the problem.
Clearly the cancer has already metastasized but the question is, at what point does it become incurable?
[Note: This article was written by Michele Hickford]