U.S. law enforcement on guard for Iranian retaliation after Qassem Soleimani killed

There are no immediate plans to step up a visible police presence, but officials say they are monitoring events.

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By Andrew Blankstein, Tom Winter and Jonathan Dienst

While law enforcement agencies in the United States have not announced immediate plans to boost visible police presence in light of a strike that killed a top Iranian commander in Iraq, multiple agencies say they are keeping a watchful eye on events overseas and will adjust as appropriate or as intelligence warrants.

There is concern that Iran could retaliate and that U.S. interests overseas could be targeted or that proxies could be deployed to strike Americans or their interests abroad, sources said.

Those areas include Africa and South America, as well as Yemen and Lebanon, they said.

The Department of Defense late Thursday announced the death of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's secretive Quds Force, in a strike said to have occurred near Baghdad International Airport.

The strike, which the Pentagon said was conducted at President Donald Trump's direction, comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, and it could ratchet up the conflict.

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U.S. law enforcement officials say the first step is for various Joint Terrorism Task Forces — groupings of local police and the FBI — to check in with their Hezbollah sources and with sources in Iran or sympathetic communities. They will want to know whether any Hezbollah-connected individuals who have been investigated previously may need a second look in light of Soleimani's death.

In November, a New York City man who considered himself a "sleeper agent" of Hezbollah, a Lebanese group which is backed by Iran and is deemed a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S., was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors said at the time that the man, Ali Kourani, was "recruited, trained and deployed by Hezbollah's Islamic Jihad Organization" to plan and execute terrorist attacks around New York, although none were carried out. As part of the case, prosecutors revealed the group's drive to accumulate bomb-making materials from China and to stockpile them around the world.

The New York City Police Department said it is monitoring the situation in Iran.

"While there are no specific or credible threats in New York City, the Department has deployed additional resources to sensitive locations across the city out of an abundance of caution," spokeswoman Devora Kaye said in a statement.

A top law enforcement official said it is important that the intelligence community is tuned in to foreign interceptions of communications that could be used to detect possible attack planning and directives from Iran.

The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement that there is no credible threat to the city, but that it was monitoring events developing in Iraq.

"We will continue to communicate with state, local, federal and international law enforcement partners regarding any significant intel that may develop," the department said.

CORRECTION (Jan. 3, 2020, 10:45 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misidentified Hezbollah. It is a Lebanese group backed by Iran, not an Iranian organization.