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Pro-ISIS group threatens LAX attack; security on alert, but officials question credibility of threat

LAX
Traffic is jammed on the upper level for departing travelers at LAX on a Friday morning in May.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A pro-Islamic State group’s Twitter account was used to make threats against Los Angeles International Airport and two other world airports. But law enforcement sources said they have no specific intelligence that deems the threat credible.

The account identified and publicized by the SITE Intelligence Group warns of threatened attacks on planes “flying from (London’s) Heathrow (Airport) to the US” during the July 4 holiday weekend and warned  that “there will be a device placed in either Heathrow, LAX or JFK Airports.

SITE is a nongovernmental intelligence organization that tracked terrorism intelligence for nearly two decades.

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Federal sources familiar with the intelligence said that while a threat may have been made, they do not consider it an executable plan and no information exists to suggest that such an operation is under way.

With 1.2 million travelers expected to pass through LAX this weekend in the wake of the Istanbul airport attack that claimed 44 lives and now another act of terror in Bangladesh, airport security is at all-time high, with the usual cadre of LAX police, federal agencies and LAPD getting assistance from the L.A. County sheriff’s tactical weapons team.  Highly visible police officers and  tactical vehicles were on hand Friday as passengers and vehicles entered the terminal areas.

On Thursday, the FBI nationally said the bureau knew of no known specific or credible threat to US during the Fourth of July weekend.

Brian Levin, a counter-terrorism expert and professor at Cal State San Bernardino’s Center on Hate and Extremism, caution that such threats are fairly common around large travel holidays and following other attacks.

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“This kind of chatter isn’t unusual around July 4th and other big holidays,” he said. “You have to assess the ability to carry out the plan.” Levin said the Tweets often are designed to influence Americans’ behavior and score a propaganda victory with nothing more than a piece of social media with an injection of fear.  

“Airports are already at a heightened state of alert, so they aren’t really going to do anything more different,” he added.

richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes

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