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MS-13 and ISIS increase use of drones as weapons, warns FBI director

The FBI warned this week that MS-13 gangs and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) are escalating their use of civilian drones as weapons.

FBI Director Christopher Wray declared in a written testimony the following to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday:

The threat from Unmanned Aircraft Systems [UAS] in the U.S. is steadily escalating….While there has been no successful malicious use of UAS by terrorists in the United States to date, terrorist groups could easily export their battlefield experiences to use weaponized UAS outside the conflict zone. We have seen repeated and dedicated efforts to use UAS as  weapons, not only by terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and Al Qa’ida, but also by transnational criminal organizations such as MS-13 and Mexican drug cartels, which may encourage [the] use of this technique in the U.S. to conduct attacks.

The FBI assesses that, given their retail availability, lack of verified identification requirement to procure, general ease of use, and prior use overseas, UAS will be used to facilitate an attack in the United States against a vulnerable target, such as a mass gathering.

In the hearing, Wray also described a scenario of how the weaponized drones were being used by an Al Qa’da operative:

The FBI recently disrupted a plan in the United States to use drones to attack the
Pentagon and the Capitol building. On November 1, 2012, Rezwan Ferdaus was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison for attempting to conduct a terrorist attack and providing support to alQa’ida. Ferdaus, who held a degree in physics, obtained multiple jet-powered, remote-controlled model aircraft capable of flying 100 miles per hour. He planned to fill the aircraft with explosives and crash them into the Pentagon and the Capitol using a GPS system in each aircraft. Fortunately, the FBI interrupted the plot after learning of it and deploying an undercover agent

To watch the video of the hearing, click here.

According to the FBI, MS-13 operates in at least 42 states and the District of Columbia and has about 6,000-10,000 members nationwide. Currently, the threat is highest in the western and northeastern parts of the country.

In the southeast and central regions of the country, the current threat is moderate to low, but recently, there has influx of MS-13 members into the southeast, causing an increase in violent crimes.


Jeremy Spencer grew up in rural South Georgia and has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, school administrator, and state education official. Jeremy is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus is local news, statewide education issues, and statewide political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as an education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns. Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. Jeremy has lived in Camden County for over 17 years.

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