US warns of possible attacks on churches, holiday gatherings
Posted December 23, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Federal authorities warned law enforcement authorities across the nation Friday that Islamic State sympathizers are continuing to call for attacks on churches and other holiday gathering sites.
The warning was issued after a publicly available list of U.S. churches was posted on a militants' social media site. It also came just days after Monday's attack at a Christmas market in Berlin that left 12 dead and 56 injured.
Separately on Friday, police in Australia detained five men suspected of planning a series of Christmas Day attacks using explosives, knives and a gun in the heart of Melbourne.
FBI spokesman Andrew Ames said U.S. citizens are advised to maintain awareness of their surroundings and report suspicious activity. He said the FBI will work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement should there be any potential threat to public safety.
"The FBI is aware of the recent link published online that urges attacks against U.S. churches," Ames said. "As with similar threats, the FBI is tracking this matter while we investigate its credibility."
"It's troubling, and yet I think our faith offers a clear response to that kind of threat," said Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh."
Dr. Terrence Leathers is pastor at Mount Vernon Christian Church in Clayton, he said the ISIS threat against Churches in the US, is hurtful.
"This is a place that we come together to worship and serve our lord and savior and to me the notion of it being desecrated in that manner, hurts me," he said.
With safety in mind, Leathers said, his and other Churches nearby have the Clayton Police Department conduct regular patrols on Sundays and other times of worship.
"I think you have to watch out for the church, in whatever way you possibly can, to ensure that people are safe when they come."
Petty said Isis threats of any kind of sanctity of worship should be a rallying cry for faith and not fear.
"The main message of the Christmas season is do not fear, do not fear, the angel proclaimed, do not fear," she said.