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Police: Terrorists may impersonate emergency responders during Pope's visit

Pa. police issue a memo days before the papal visit warning terrorists may dress as cops, firefighters and EMTs to launch deadly attacks


HARRISBURG, Pa. — Law enforcement officials are worried that terrorists may impersonate police officers, firefighters and EMTs to carry out deadly attacks during Pope Francis' U.S. visit.

NBC News obtained a memo from the Pennsylvania State Police’s Criminal Intelligence Center that warns terrorists may be disguised  as emergency responders to gain access to secure areas and launch attacks without being detected.

"The impersonators' main goals are to further their attack plan and do harm to unsuspecting citizens as well as members of the emergency services community," read the bulletin titled "First Responder Impersonators: The New Terrorist Threat.”

Pope Francis will visit the U.S. on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Pope Francis will visit the U.S. on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

The document was issued days before the pope’s visit and mentioned instances where suspects planned to use police uniforms to carry out their attacks.

In March, an Army National Guard soldier, Hasan Edmonds, planned with his cousin to kill dozens at a U.S. military installation in Illinois using his uniforms. They were later arrested and charged with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

In April, French authorities arrested ISIS sympathizer Sid Ahmed Ghlam, who was planning to attack a church. He was in possession of weapons, bullet-proof vests and police armbands.

Belgian authorities in January found suspects in possession of a weapons cache, police uniforms and fake IDs.

In June English police foiled the plot of two men disguised as paramedics to distribute cocaine, heroin, amphetamine, and ecstasy.

The bulletin warned that the U.S. is vulnerable because there are numerous businesses that cater to the needs of emergency responders.

"A wide variety of products such as clothing, weapons and tactical gear can be purchased on the Internet by any consumer, regardless of a confirmed affiliation to emergency services, government or law enforcement agency," the bulletin said.

The document advised police to be on the lookout for stolen uniforms and credentials, emergency vehicles in poor condition or loaded beyond capacity, and for emergency responders with appropriate uniforms and vehicles in unapproved areas with no reasonable explanation.

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