Terror worries, nearly one week after Egypt church bombings

(Sinclair Broadcast Group)

President Donald Trump ordered the bombing of an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan Thursday, yet fears of attack from the terror group linger in the United States, nearly one week after the horrific bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday.

The attacks left U.S. law enforcement on edge as well over whether the same thing could happen here, nearly six months after ISIS released a so-called hit list calling for followers to attack specific U.S. churches nationwide.

"This is an organization that calls for targeting of religious institutions and individuals figures on a fairly regular basis," said William Braniff, Executive Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) -- a University of Maryland affiliated research center that tracks terror activity globally.

This week, as Jews observe Passover and Christians observe Good Friday and Easter, fears of these threats linger, as some wonder whether the attacks in Egypt mark an uptick in the targeting of religious institutions and officials.

"It’s a spectacular form of communication to attack a religious institution and especially on a religious holiday, it drives our attention towards that attack," said Braniff.

When it comes to targets of attacks, Braniff pointed out the data shows religious institutions and officials were attacked less than other targets, saying, "Private citizens and their property was number one by far, followed by police, the military, businesses.”

Yet, the United States has seen a higher percentage of attacks on religious institutions -- 33 percent -- despite low percentages of attack numbers globally.

"We’re actually an anomaly globally," Braniff said. "In part, it reflects the fact that violent extremism in the US is really diverse. And so you had arson attacks on Christian churches. You had arson attacks on Muslim mosques. You had attacks on Sikh religious centers. And so the diversity of violent extremism means that there’s a whole bunch of different potential targets within that general target of religious institution or individual."

Due to several high profile U.S. attacks -- from the 2012 shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin to the 2015 Charleston church shooting, many houses of worship in the U.S. have upped their security postures.

Braniff points out that even though the U.S. ranks a little higher, the odds of a terror attack are still slim. Yet he believes all Americans should continue to be vigilant in paying attention

“We are all much more likely to be susceptible to a car accident than we are to a terrorism incident," Braniff said. "We are fortunate to live in country that has such a proficient law enforcement and intelligence community that this should not be the thing driving [Americans'] day-to-day behaviors.”

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