The FBI is increasingly worried about possible violent clashes between ideologically-motivated extremist groups before the November election, director Chris Wray said Thursday.
Wray said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is keeping a close eye on groups who have faced off in protests in various cities such as Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin.
In those places, anti-racism and anti-police groups have squared off with right-wing and white nationalist activists who are often armed.
Wray told a Congressional hearing that the FBI was deeply concerned about the growing tension on US streets, and groups that are "hijacking" protests to incite violence.
"Now you've got an additional level of combustible violence," he said, citing "violent extremist groups or individuals committing violence."
"Now you have both groups from the opposite sides adding to the combustibility and danger of the situation," Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee.
"We have certainly seen that in a number of cities. That's a force multiplier, in a bad way, that I'm concerned about."
Several people have been killed in those situations.
In August, a 17-year-old with ties to arch-conservative groups was charged with shooting dead two people protesting against police mistreatment of blacks in Kenosha.
And at the end of August in Portland, an activist aligned with the leftist Antifa movement shot dead a supporter of a far-right Patriot Prayer group during a protest.
The Antifa shooter, Michael Reinoehl, was killed by police days later.
Wray told lawmakers that, aside from "lone wolf" attackers inspired by foreign jihadist groups like Islamic State, white supremacists remain the biggest domestic terror threat.
"Within the domestic terrorism bucket as a whole, racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group," he told the committee.
"Within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist ideology is certainly the biggest chunk."
Wray did point out that while white supremacists have been responsible for most of the lethal terror attacks inside the United States in recent years, there has been a noteworthy shift this year, with attacks by "anti-government, anti-authority" actors.
That includes the May murder of two policemen in California by a follower of the extreme right, often heavily armed "Boogaloo Bois" movement.
In the same hearing, National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller confirmed that white nationalists were a particular focus of their concerns, reports AFP.
BIDEN REJECTS TRUMP CLAIM
US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday bluntly contradicted President Donald Trump's suggestion that a coronavirus vaccine may be only weeks away, warning Americans they cannot trust the president's word.
"The idea that there's going to be a vaccine and everything's gonna be fine tomorrow - it's just not rational," Biden said during a CNN town hall in Moosic, Pennsylvania.
Trump again said on Wednesday that a vaccine for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, could be ready for distribution ahead of the November 3 election.
Meanwhile, a federal judge issued a historic decision to temporarily block the US Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from changing a wide swath of USPS policies or protocols ahead of November's presidential election.
The opinion from Judge Stanley Bastian in Eastern Washington's US District Court enjoin Trump administration postal policies as harmful to voters' ability to cast ballots this November and deliberately suppressive to voters.
It places the judge at the center of a political furor in which the court steps into the extraordinary position of stopping the entire USPS from making any changes that may affect efficient mail delivery nationwide.