U.S. law enforcement officials have warned against small groups of homegrown Islamic militants who pose a greater threat to the United States, it was reported on Wednesday.
It is small groups rather than disaffected individuals acting alone that constitute the most dangerous form of homegrown terrorism, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"They can plan multiple attacks, use varied weapons and tactics, and draw on a wider range of resources," said the paper. "More important, members largely operate under the radar and can goad and encourage each other, increasing the likelihood of talk turning into action."
The New York Police Department has released a report citing at least 10 well-known recent plots that were developed either completely or in large part by such homegrown militants with little or no support from al Qaeda, according to the paper.
Current and former U.S. and European counter-terrorism officials note that homegrown teams, not individuals, were blamed for the deadly London bus and subway bombings of 2005, as well as the aborted plot to detonate multiple car bombs there and in Scotland last spring.
"It's an international phenomenon" and authorities were monitoring such cells in the United States, Europe, Canada, the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, the paper quoted one U.S. intelligence official as saying.
The danger -- and the problem in identifying these groups -- is magnified by the fact that they usually lack any connection to al Qaeda or other trans-national terrorist groups beyond occasional contact or downloading propaganda from the Internet, said the paper.
"If we don't bump into them directly or have someone involved in some form of interaction with them, we'll have a difficult time finding them," Arthur M. Cummings II, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counter-terrorism, was quoted as saying.
And while larger groups offer more opportunities for penetration by law enforcement agents, these ones seldom have the kind of structure, hierarchy or charismatic leader that authorities have locked onto in the past, said the paper.