Counterterror officials warn of new danger

Top U.S. counterterror officials warned on Thursday of a new danger to the U.S. - a Somali extremist group called the Al-Shabaab, which is currently stocked with dozens of Somali-Americans who may be plotting an American attack.

Al-Shabaab rose to prominence after a CIA-backed military offensive destroyed the radical Islamic Courts Union in Mogadishu in 2006, according to the New York Daily News. More joined the group after militant leader Aden Hashi Farah Ayro was killed by U.S. special operations forces in 2008. The group publicly aligns itself with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The AQAP leader, Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, is believed to be seeking the use of chemical and biological weapons.

"We remain vigilant that al-Shabaab may expand its focus from fighting to control Somalia to plotting to attack the (U.S.) homeland," Lt. Gen. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence told a congressional hearing, according to the New York Daily News.

This “youth movement” of the Al-Shabaab is waging a battle against the weak U.S.-backed transitional federal government. It includes several Americans in leadership positions, the New York Daily News reports.

"Absent more effective and sustained activities to disrupt them, some regional affiliates - particularly Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Shabaab in Somalia - probably will grow stronger," Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee, the New York Daily News reports.