NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday that New York City is “constantly vigilant” against any terror threat posed by the recent violence in Iraq.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, has already captured major cities in Iraq and is threatening its capital.
A U.S. official said this week that its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said “I’ll see you guys in New York” when he was released in 2009.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday the NYPD is not aware of any specific threat to New York City.
“I think the comments that are being widely reported on from the apparent leader of the ISIS group reflect the reality of our city, that we have been and will continue to remain one of the top terrorist targets in the world,” Bratton told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb.
Bratton said the NYPD has not been ramping up counterterrorism efforts in recent day. The department, however, plans to assign extra uniformed and plainclothes officers to patrol outside mosques around the city for the Muslim holy month beginning June 28.
“We are monitoring everything,” NYPD Chief of Intelligence Thomas Galati told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer. “As things come up we will deploy our assets as we see are best suited, but we are constantly looking at it. We’ll make adjustments as we’re going along.”
De Blasio said Tuesday that city police “don’t take any threat lightly” and that the NYPD has been in contact with federal authorities.
“We’re quite aware of the statements he’s made,” de Blasio said of al-Baghdadi. “We’re quite aware of the growth of this organization, and it’s something I talk to Commissioner Bratton about regularly.”
There has not been a specific recent threat made against New York, but concerns are growing as al-Baghdadi’s group has appeared to gain strength in Iraq, seizing Mosul, Tikrit and other towns as the country’s military melted away.
Manny Gomez, a former FBI agent who investigated major terrorism cases, said al-Baghdadi is a man more careful about his public exposure than Osama bin Laden, wearing masks and shunning photographs. He’s become more dangerous with his success in Iraq, and his threat to New York City is being taken very seriously.
“This person has proven that he is definitely a threat. He will carry out his promises and he has the resources in which to do so,” Gomez said. “This guy’s on the move. He’s only gaining strength. He’s gaining more resources — vis-à-vis weaponry, intelligence backing. His numbers are growing. His financial strength is growing. Success breeds success, and this guy, unfortunately for us, has been very successful.”
The Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. has also warned there will be an international impact if ISIS, which is an offspring of al Qaeda, takes over oil-rich Iraq.
Late Tuesday, Iraqi security forces battled insurgents targeting the country’s main oil refinery.
“If al Qaeda has access to billions, or any of their offsprings such as ISIL or ISIS has access to billions of dollars, then that will certainly create havoc throughout the world,” Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily said. “That’s the seriousness of the situation.”
President Barack Obama summoned top congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the collapsing security situation.
The president has shifted his focus away from airstrikes in Iraq as an imminent option for slowing a fast-moving Islamic insurgency, in part because there are few clear targets that the U.S. could hit, officials said.
Officials said Obama has made no final decisions and could ultimately approve limited strikes if stronger targets emerge. The CIA and other spy agencies are scrambling to close intelligence gaps in the region and track the movements of key figures.
Obama has ruled out returning combat troops to Iraq in order to quell the insurgency. However, he has notified Congress that up to 275 armed U.S. forces are being positioned in and around Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. interests.
Officials have said Obama is also considering sending a small contingent of special operations forces to help train the Iraqi military. Other options under consideration include boosting Iraq’s intelligence about the militants and more broadly, encouraging the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to become more inclusive.
“The president has been watching what we have been watching for over a year as the situation in Iraq continued to be undermined and yet nothing, nothing has happened to try to reverse it,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney wrote in Wall Street Journal op-ed, “rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”
Ahead of his meeting at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed back against the Republicans, saying the U.S. had no business sending American troops into the midst of what he called Iraq’s civil war.
“It’s time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “After a decade of war, the American people have had enough. American families have had enough.”
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