Officials are determining the validity of the threat, according to a law enforcement source. As a precaution, federal and local law enforcement departments are investigating and moving to protect potential targets, the source said.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security briefed state and local law enforcement officials in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia on a possible terror plot in the region in the coming days, according to the source.
In Virginia’s Fairfax County, adjacent to Washington, police received information concerning “potential public safety impacts to malls and shopping centers across the region,” Chief Kevin Davis said at a news briefing Friday.
Police patrols will be increased at major thoroughfares, transit hubs, shopping plazas and malls in Fairfax County, Davis said. He also encouraged the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.
Davis declined to provide specifics on the threat but called it a “regional matter.” To his knowledge, no one has been identified in connection to the threat, Davis said.
“Because we received information that has a public safety value to it, it’s just our responsibility to have a greater presence, to be more aware, and to ask the community to have their eyes and ears peeled for suspicious activities,” he said.
The sheriff’s office in nearby Loudoun County was aware of information on potential threats to malls and shopping centers this weekend in the Washington area, the office said Friday in a news release.
That agency also said it was increasing patrols in high-visibility locations as it works to corroborate the information with regional partners.
“This information is limited and there is nothing specific to Loudoun County,” the release reads.
FBI Washington field office spokeswoman Carly Kennedy declined to comment, except, “The FBI takes all potential threats to public safety seriously, and we take all appropriate steps to determine the credibility of any information we receive.”
The warnings come as US officials have raised concerns about domestic and foreign terror threats. At an Intelligence and National Security Alliance event on Thursday, Homeland Security intelligence chief John Cohen said the situation in the US is more “volatile, dynamic and complex” than at any time in recent memory.
“We’re dealing with an evolving foreign terrorist threat environment as conditions in Afghanistan, Yemen, and other countries that are known areas of terrorist activity are evolving. We’re dealing with a sustained threat by domestic violent extremist and domestic terrorists,” he said.