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Top US official warns of European jihadist sleeper cells

James Clapper, director of national intelligence, says Islamic State has members active in Britain, Germany, Italy

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

File: US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in Washington, DC, February 26, 2015. (Evy Mages/Getty Images/AFP)
File: US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in Washington, DC, February 26, 2015. (Evy Mages/Getty Images/AFP)

A top US intelligence official has warned that the Islamic State group is operating sleeper cells in Britain, Germany and Italy, an ongoing concern for Washington’s European allies.

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made the comments at a meet the journalist breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor on Monday, The New York Times reported.

IS has cells in those countries similar to the groups that carried out attacks in Paris and Brussels, Clapper told the gathering.

Pressed as to whether or not IS was involving itself in secret activities in those countries, Clapper responded: “Yes, they do. That is a concern, obviously, of ours and our European allies.

“We continue to see evidence of plotting on the part of ISIL in the countries you named,” he added, using an alternative acronym for the jihadist group that has overrun large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

According to the report, since the November 2015 Paris attacks, which killed 130 people, and then again after the Brussels bombing attacks last month that claimed 32 lives, the US has ramped up its intelligence “from a variety of technical and human resources” to European allies. The US has also offered to help European countries develop methods of sharing intelligence between their national agencies and close off “porous borders.”

Last month Britain’s most senior counterterrorism police officer warned of the risk of further “spectacular” attacks by IS as it trains its sights on “Western lifestyle” targets.

London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said British police carried out a record number of counterterrorism arrests last year. But he warned that IS had broadened its focus from military and police targets, noting the Paris attacks last year when gunmen attacked bars, a concert hall and a stadium.

Police have previously said they foiled seven plots between late 2014 and early 2016. Across Britain, police made a record 339 arrests related to counterterrorism in 2015, around half of which resulted in charges being brought.

Britain has suffered only one fatal incident of international terrorism since the July 7, 2005 attacks on the London transport system that killed 52 people.

AFP contributed to this report.

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