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Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday on "Meet the Press" that the U.S. is "at war with terrorists" who commit "heinous acts" like the attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and who use "a corrupted version of Islam" to justify their actions.
Holder was pressed by host Chuck Todd about whether he agrees with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who declared Saturday that France is at war with "radical Islam."
Holder claimed that the core of al Qaeda has been "decimated," but called the terror group's Yemen-based affiliate the chief security threat to the United States. "They have the ability to inspire people around the world, unfortunately, they have explosives experts ... and a capacity that I think is unmatched by any other terrorist organization."
According to Yemeni officials, both Said and Cherif Kouachi spent time in the country, where they had weapons training. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemen branch is known, has claimed responsibility for the brothers' Paris attack. Holder called the organization "a very virulent and viable threat that we have devoted considerable attention to and will consider and continue to focus on."
The attorney general said Americans should feel secure, but conceded that tracking individuals before they commit a crime can be difficult. "To stay in touch with all the people who are potentially going to do these kinds of things," Holder said. "That is the thing that I the keeps me up most at night, this concern about the lone wolf who goes undetected." Counter-terrorism officials in France are investigating whether the Kouachi brothers were part of a dormant sleeper cell that was activated.
The White House announced that the president will host a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February to focus on identifying and preventing radicalization, following recent attacks in Paris, Ottawa, and Sydney.