WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups may be considering attacks against Veterans Affairs hospitals in the United States, U.S. law enforcement officials said.
Citing reports of “suspicious activity” at VA hospitals in Colorado and Bethesda, Maryland, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin on Thursday urging law enforcement agencies around the country to be vigilant.
The agencies stressed they had no credible information about any specific planned attacks.
U.S. officials have warned of possible attacks in the run-up to presidential elections in November. On Aug. 1 they raised the terror alert to “high” for financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington.
Al Qaeda and affiliated groups may be eyeing Veterans Affairs hospitals as symbolic targets, believing they are less heavily defended than traditional military installations, the agencies said.
“These facilities may be considered attractive targets due to their association with the military and a perception that such an attack may be more successful than an attack against traditional military targets,” the agencies said.
They said concern was sparked by reports of possible reconnaissance being conducted at military medical facilities, including hospitals in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington, D.C., and Aurora, Colorado.
It advised officials to watch for signs of “similar surveillance activities at VA hospitals and other key facilities.”