Hatchet Attack Prompts ISIS-Inspired 'Lone Wolf' Concerns

Following the attack on several NYPD officers, U.S. authorities are again warning of the potential for "lone wolf" terrorist attacks.

Hatchet Attack Prompts ISIS-Inspired 'Lone Wolf' Concerns
Twitter / @NYPDnews

New York officials have called the brutal attack of several NYPD officers by a man wielding a hatchet an act of terrorism.

NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER BILL BRATTON VIA NBC: "This was a terrorist attack, certainly."  

JOHN MILLER NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE & COUNTERTERRORISM VIA NBC: "Visiting websites that are focused on designated terrorist groups Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabab."

According to police, the suspect in the attacks, 32-year-old Zale Thompson, read up on beheadings and the death of a soldier outside the Canadian parliament before the attack Thursday. Thompson injured two officers before being shot dead in Queens. (Video via Al Jazeera)

Law enforcement now believe Thompson acted alone, but the entire NYPD force was advised to be on high alert because of what unfolded in Ottawa. 

In what is being called another home-grown terror attack, 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at a war memorial outside Canada's Parliament building.

It's believed Zehaf-Bibeau acted on his own as well, though he tried to secure a passport to leave Canada and would teach the word of Islam to residents of the homeless shelter he was living in, according to Canada's National Post. His past was riddled with drug addiction.

The potential for these attacks led U.S. authorities to warn police, soldiers and members of the media that they could become targets for domestic attacks carried out by ISIS supporters.

Originally ISIS fighters focused on gaining territory in Iraq and Syria. But since U.S. airstrikes against the group began a month ago, ISIS propaganda has included calls for solo attacks by supporters in the West.

Officials warned police forces and journalists could become targets for these "lone wolf" attacks in a release from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security a little more than a week before the hatchet attack.

The release cites communications from ISIS that urged Western supporters to attack police and soldiers, reminding them they could attack without first seeking advice from the organization. (Video via The Guardian)

Former National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen warned in September that ISIS "operates the most sophisticated propaganda machine," of any current terrorism group. Meaning, its possible than an ISIS sympathizer could, "conduct a limited, self-directed attack here at home, with no warning."

Despite these earlier warnings, federal officials have not confirmed the NYPD's assertion of the hatchet attack as an act of terrorism. Instead, they have referred to Thompson as anti-government and anti-police. (Video via WABC-TV)

NYPD officer Kenneth Healey remains in the hospital in serious but stable condition after the attack. His colleague, officer Joseph Meeker was discharged from the hospital on Friday.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.