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Homegrown terrorism a growing concern for US intelligence

Homegrown terrorism is a growing threat, US intelligence chief Dennis Blair said this week. But the number of American Muslims engaged in extremist activity remain small and still largely focused overseas.

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Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, this week, before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the annual threats assessment of the US intelligence community.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

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The nation’s top intelligence official warned this week of the threat posed by “homegrown terrorism,” though he said there was no evidence yet of an organized terrorist network operating in the US.

A small number of American Muslims are engaged in extremist activities at home and abroad, said Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair Tuesday at a Senate hearing. Their focus remains largely overseas, he said, but the threat to the homeland from Americans with links to radicals abroad remains troubling.

“We are concerned that the influence of inspirational figures such as Anwar al-Awlaqi will increasingly motivate individuals toward violent extremism,” Mr. Blair said. Mr. al-Awlaqi is the radical Yemeni cleric linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter, as well possibly to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the Nigerian who attempted to blow up an American airliner in Detroit on Christmas Day.

Blair also separately warned that Al Qaeda or its affiliates overseas was planning a big attack against the US in the next six months.

Blair’s concerns about homegrown terrorism points up the difficulty US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have in spotting terrorists who are American citizens - the so-called “terrorist next door” phenomenon.

“The motivations for such individuals are complex and driven by a combination of personal circumstances and external factors,” Blair said.

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