US security chief warns of 'new phase' in terror threat

US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson says the global terrorist threat has entered a "new phase" (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb) (AFP)

Washington (AFP) - The global terrorist threat has entered a "new phase," where media-savvy Islamist extremists are successfully drawing lone wolf attackers to their cause, the US secretary of Homeland Security warned Sunday.

In an interview with ABC News, Jeh Johnson said the Islamic State group's influence was spreading far beyond the battlegrounds of the Middle East.

"We're very definitely in a new environment, because of ISIL's (IS's) effective use of social media, the Internet, which has the ability to reach into the homeland and possibly inspire others," Johnson said.

"We're very definitely in a new phase in the global terrorist threat, where the so-called lone wolf could strike at any moment."

FBI Director James Comey last week said authorities were concerned about the IS group encouraging attacks on "the uniformed military and law enforcement" via online propaganda.

There are "hundreds, maybe thousands" of people in the United States who had received recruitment messages from the jihadists, Comey said.

The US military bolstered security at bases across the country Friday.

"Because of the use of the Internet, we could have little or no notice in advance of an independent actor attempting to strike. And so that's why law enforcement at the local level needs to be ever more vigilant and we are constantly reminding them to do that," Johnson said.

He also urged leaders in the broader Islamic community to step up to counter extremism.

"It has to come from within the community. It has to come from Islamic leaders, who frankly can talk the language better than the federal government can," Johnson said.