A 2003 FBI memo said al-Qaeda had talked of masterminding a plot to set devastating fires in the western US. In 2004, an Arabic-language jihad website posted a message relating to a similar plan.
Today FBI officials confirmed that one of the current fires in California was the work of an arsonist.
As reported by National Nine News in Australia:
Professor Rohan Gunaratna, one of the world’s foremost experts on terrorism … , describes how terrorists are becoming increasingly creative when it comes to plotting attacks.
“Guns and bombs are a terrorists’ forte, but today they are becoming increasingly creative and imaginative because they are under pressure,” said Mr Gunaratna …
While he said the probability of al-Qaeda setting some of the [current] fires in California was extremely rare, he didn’t rule it out in the future and said it was becoming increasingly possible.
“It is a matter that is of concern because there are individual members of al-Qaeda that have expressed interest in setting forest fires,” Mr Gunaratna said …
While communication between al-Qaeda leadership and its cells is becoming more difficult, the greater autonomy leaders have given the organisation’s members means the risk of terrorists setting bushfires has increased …
“In the past al-Qaeda have always needed to seek permission, so there is a definite shift in thinking.”
Terrorists have used fire as a weapon in the past.