Federal authorities have advised local law enforcement agencies to be alert to possible terrorism threats because of the Middle East peace conference next week in Annapolis, Homeland Security and FBI officials said Friday.
Although intelligence reports indicate no credible threats by domestic extremist groups to the conference or Islamic or Jewish sites in the Annapolis area, “nonetheless, the Department of Homeland Security does not discount the threat of the lone wolf terrorist, including individuals radicalized by homegrown extremist groups or Internet content,” said a bulletin issued by the agency and the FBI.
The threat assessment bulletin highlights about a dozen groups, including the radical Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas, and Hezbollah, the Lebanese umbrella organization of radical Islamic Shiite groups that is a bitter foe of Israel.
Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said the bulletin was sent to law enforcement agencies “in an abundance of caution.”
“It’s basically saying we’re mindful of those who wish to do us harm,” she said.
The State Department is coordinating security for the meeting Tuesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Keehner said her agency’s Transportation Security Administration will work to ensure that the foreign visitors — about 200 dignitaries from 35 countries are coming, according to the bulletin — get safely through area airports.
At the Naval Academy, workers set up tables, chairs and telephones inside Alumni Hall, the basketball arena that will serve as the media filing center. A tall stage nearly as wide as the basketball court was erected at one end of the building, with three giant projection screens on the walls at that end of the structure.
Campus visitors encountered a newly installed metal detector at Gate 1, the main visitor gate, but no other heightened security measures were visible at the academy nor in downtown Annapolis. The campus will be closed Monday and Tuesday to general visitation.
Annapolis police reported no unusual activity.
Electronic sideboards along highways in Maryland urged people to report “terror tips” and suspicious behavior, but State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said those are standard messages displayed during holiday weekends.