More than 200 suspects threatening violence during next week’s inauguration of US president-elect Joe Biden have been identified by the FBI.
FBI Director Chris Wray said he and his team were tracking an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter”, including calls for armed protests leading up to the presidential inauguration on 20 January.
In his first public appearance since the 6 January riot at the US Capitol, Mr Wray told a security briefing for Vice President Mike Pence that the FBI remained concerned about the potential for violence at protests and rallies in Washington.
He warned such events could bring armed individuals near government buildings and elected officials.
“One of the real challenges in this space is trying to distinguish what’s aspirational versus what’s intentional,” Mr Wray said.
He said the FBI was receiving a “significant” amount of information that it was passing on to police ahead of the inauguration.
“We’re looking at individuals who may have an eye towards repeating that same kind of violence that we saw last week,” Mr Wray said, adding that since 6 January, the FBI has identified more than 200 suspects.
“We know who you are. If you’re out there, an FBI agent is coming to find you,” he added.
The information-sharing comes after police were criticised for being unprepared for the violent, deadly surge at the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.
Michael Sherwin, the Acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said he expected much more serious charges to be filed as the Justice Department continued its investigation into the riot.
Local police officers have been warned the Capitol riots will likely inspire others with violent intentions.
Security has already been stepped up across the country in preparation for possible armed protests and violence this weekend.
Earlier this week, an FBI bulletin warned of potential armed protests in all 50 states.
The FBI will operate a round-the-clock command post at its headquarters and at each of its field offices to monitor threats, share intelligence and decide how to allocate resources, Mr Wray said.
“Our posture is aggressive, and it’s going to stay that way through the inauguration,” he said.
Separately, Mr Pence returned to the Capitol on Thursday for the first time since the night of the riot, when he was whisked away to a secure location.
He visited with National Guard troops keeping watch outside the building, telling them he was familiar with the guard because he used to be a governor.
“Thank you for stepping forward for your country,” he told them, before adding, “It’s been my great honour to serve as your vice president.”
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