Are terrorists setting U.S. wildfires?

As the 2013 season of devastating wildfires continues to rage across the American West, the question of arson as a form of major terrorism is again being raised.

Already this year, 35,440 reported fires have burned a total of 3.9 million acres, with a quarter-million acres scorched the iconic Yosemite National Park.

Large blazes continue to burn in several states, with six alive in Idaho, five each in California and Montana, and one each in Alaska, Louisiana, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

In July 2012, William Scott, a former National Security Agency official and Aviation Week editor, told the American Center for Democracy that terrorists are using fire as a tactical weapon of war.

For any terrorists that are determined to inflict significant damage with very little investment or risk, fire is an extremely high-leverage weapon of mass effect.

Scott explained that after U.S. Navy SEALs killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, they “captured a treasure trove of material that provided some unprecedented insight into the al-Qaida plans. And one of those was a detailed campaign for starting fires throughout the [American] West.

U.S. officials have pretty much determined that some of the fires that burned in California [in 2011] were ignited by al-Qaida operatives,” Scott said.

An editorial in June by the Washington Examiner noted, “Those trying to downplay the threat of terrorism have dismissed such a possibility as paranoid. As Americans learned in 2001, and again as recently as 2012 in Benghazi and 2013 with the Boston Marathon bombing, terrorist threats are not something to take lightly.”

As WND reported in June, an expert on Islamic terrorism believes a wildfire that ravaged the outskirts of Colorado Springs, Colo., killing two people and destroying more than 500 homes, should be examined by terror investigators.

“One thing that my investigators have given me the authority to state is that they have all but ruled out natural causes as the cause of this fire,” said Sheriff Terry Maketa at the time. “I can’t really go any further on that, but I can say we are pretty confident it was not, for instance, a lightning strike.”

That single blaze in Colorado caused more than $85 million in damage, but that figure is expected to rise to possibly $120 million.

“Bill Scott, who’s a senior fellow at ACD, warned about such a scenario last July, speaking at the ACD-EWI Economic Threats briefing on Capital Hill,” Ehrenfeld wrote. “An expert on aerial firefighting, he presented a sobering analysis of the devastating (2012) Waldo Canyon Fire [in Colorado], pointing out that the striking rise [in] Western U.S. wildfires may be caused by elements other than nature.

“He noted that in spring 2012, al-Qaida’s English-language online magazine, Inspire, published an article called ‘It Is of Your Freedom to Ignite a Firebomb,’ which featured instructions on how to build an incendiary bomb to light forests on fire.”

She explained that Russia’s security chief, Aleksandr Bortnikov, also has warned, “Al-Qaida was complicit in recent forest fires in Europe” as part of terrorism’s “strategy of a thousand cuts.

“Since then, more fatwas advocating that ‘fire is a cheap, easy and effective tool for economic warfare’ have been issued,” Ehrenfeld wrote. “They’ve included detailed instructions for constructing remote-controlled ‘ember bombs, and how to set fires without leaving a trace.’”

Mother Jones reported Don Smurthwaite, a Bureau of Land Management spokesman, “downplayed” Ehrenfeld’s ideas, “but he didn’t dismiss the notion outright.”

“We don’t have any hard evidence that any wildfires in the U.S. were started by terrorists in recent years,” he told the publication. “But is it a possibility? Certainly.”

He noted the last confirmed weaponized wildfires were in World War II, when the Japanese sent incendiary balloons across the Pacific.

However, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported al-Qaida was advising would-be terrorists how best to burn America.

The terror group’s magazine included pictures, diagrams and explanations on how to start fires to obtain the most damage.

Full article: Are terrorists setting U.S. wildfires? (WND)

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