(U//FOUO) DHS-FBI Bulletin: Terrorist Interest in Attacking Theaters and Mass Gatherings

Terrorists’ Interest in Attacking Theaters and Similar Mass Gatherings

  • 1 page
  • For Official Use Only
  • May 17, 2012


(U//FOUO) An early April 2012 suicide bombing of a theater in Somalia and a violent extremist communication advocating attacks on US theaters highlight terrorists’ continued interest in attacking such venues. Although we have no specific or credible information indicating that terrorists plan to attack theaters in the United States, terrorists may seek to emulate overseas attacks on theaters here in the United States because they have the potential to inflict mass casualties and cause local economic damage.

— (U//FOUO) On 4 April 2012, an al-Shabaab female suicide bomber detonated explosives at the National Theater in Mogadishu, Somalia during a speech by the Somali Prime Minister attended by multiple cabinet members. The bomber blended in with the audience until her attack, which targeted the VIPs in attendance.

— (U//FOUO) On 7 April 2012, an al-Qa‘ida-linked violent extremist urged others to emulate the 2002 Moscow theater hostage attack—in which Chechen terrorists seized the Dubrovka Theater and held over 800 people captive for three days until Russian security forces gassed the theater—by seizing crowded facilities in the United States, including movie theaters; taking hostages; and demanding the release of captured al-Qa‘ida-linked or -inspired violent extremists.

(U//FOUO) These recent instances demonstrate that mass gatherings such as those associated with theaters likely remain attractive terrorist targets. We encourage facility owners and operators, security personnel, and first responders to remain vigilant and report suspicious activities and behaviors that may indicate a potential attack.

(U//FOUO) Potential Suspicious Activity Indicators

— (U//FOUO) Persons in crowded areas wearing clothing that is unusually bulky or atypical for the season, possibly to conceal suicide explosives or weapons.
— (U//FOUO) Persons asking about theater security screening and evacuation procedures.
— (U//FOUO) Packages—possibly containing explosives—left unattended in open areas or hidden in trash receptacles, lockers, or similar containers.
— (U//FOUO) Suspicious or illegally parked vehicles near a theater or where crowds gather prior to or following performances and events.

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