Local authorities on guard over Michigan ISIS threat

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Local authorities on Thursday said they are staying vigilant but are not overly concerned about recent threats that the Islamic State group is training terrorists in Michigan and other states.

Andy Arena, a former special agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit, said America has been threatened by the likes of al-Qaida and now ISIS “and the threat comes in different forms and different messages, but I don’t think this is any different.”

“I still think we have to take this seriously and be concerned as we have been and should have been for the last 14 years,” Arena said. “And the interesting thing is they are very adept at using social media and the Internet.”

The anonymous threat was reportedly issued by ISIS and posted this week at the text-sharing website JustPaste.it. The threat referred to a recent attack during a Texas cartoon contest that featured images of the Prophet Muhammad.

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly, whose city is home to a large Middle Eastern population, said the source of the threat seemed “ambiguous,” but his office talks with federal officials to diffuse any potential situation.

“Do I believe that there’s any greater threat today than there is any other day? I don’t believe so,” O’Reilly said. “That’s not to say someone couldn’t get radicalized. But the likelihood is that people in the community would probably be more likely be aware of it.”

The unverified message — signed by “Abu Ibrahim Al Ameriki” — said in part: “We have 71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack any target we desire. Out of the 71 trained soldiers 23 have signed up for missions like Sunday, We are increasing in number ... Of the 15 states, 5 we will name... Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, California, and Michigan. The disbelievers who shot our brothers think that you killed someone untrained, nay, they gave you their bodies in plain view because we were watching.”

Detroit Metro Airport officials say they are being diligent.

“Our airport security and law enforcement teams coordinate closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies,” Metro Airport spokesman Brian Lassaline said.

O’Reilly said his main concern is that Muslims or those of Middle Eastern descent may be unfairly judged.

“Sometimes (people) get emotional and say ‘let’s be extremist and throw all Muslims out of the country.’ That’s an absurdity if you are thinking logically,” O’Reilly said.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

Staff writer Holly Fournier and the Associated Press contributed.