The following is a Red Team case study of a hypothetical terrorist attack on Kansas City, Missouri. It is an attempt to highlight what an ISIS-inspired attack might look like on a mid-size American city, located not in the Northeast Corridor, nor on the West Coast, but in the middle of the United States. The point of such an exercise is to highlight vulnerabilities, potential targets, responses from national as well as local assets, and to think through the scenario before it occurs. If your local government is not already doing this, prod them relentlessly until they do so. We cannot afford to wait until terrorists begin initiating these types of scenarios to prepare for them. 

H-60 Days

Cell leader and primary facilitator (Assailant #1), communicating with the group’s operational leadership in Raqqa, Syria, via Tor socket and the Nashir computer program, is ordered to prepare an attack on Kansas City, Missouri, where Assailant #1 currently resides.  Assailant #1 is an American-born, ethnic Chechen who successfully traveled to the Russian Federation, and then onward to Syria, where he fought with ISIS in and around Raqqa in 2014. While in-theater, Assailant #1 was told to return to the United States, was provided instructions on how to covertly communicate with ISIS external operations leadership, and was instructed to lie low until further contact was initiated.

Assailant #1 is ordered to prepare for the arrival of eight operatives, who will be travelling from Europe (one each from Belgium, Sweden, Albania, and France), North Africa (one from Tunisia), and the Middle East (one each from Jordan, Kuwait, and Bahrain). He is told to acquire weapons and ammunition on the local market, provided funds to do so, and instructed to acquire explosive materials however he is able. He is also ordered to plan to initiate the attack via an aircraft incident of some sort. All nine operatives are to be prepared for martyrdom, including Assailant #1.

H-45 Days

Assailant #1 purchases a legal, semi-automatic AR-15, as well as 300 rounds of ammunition for the rifle. Assailant #1 makes a reservation with a Kansas City-based helicopter tour company for an airborne tour—in the early evening—of the Kansas City Country Club Plaza’s Christmas lights.

H-30 Days

Assailant #1 procures moderately large quantities of black powder under the guise of owning a black-powder firearm, and acquires the necessary components for a pressure-cooker bomb, using the same engineering techniques employed by the Boston Marathon bombers. He forwards instructions to ISIS external operations leadership, via Nashir, for onward passage to each of the other eight assailants who will be traveling to the U.S. for the attack. They are to procure all necessary equipment upon their arrival, with the exception of the black powder, for which Assailant #1 is responsible.

Assailant #1 purchases a semi-automatic shotgun, and a second AR-15, with ammunition, at a Missouri gun show.

H-20 Days

Assailant #1 has purchased a third AR-15, with ammunition, at a gun show in Oklahoma, and a fourth at a gun show in Kansas. He purchases a second semi-automatic shotgun at the Kansas gun show.

Assailant #1 has also cased targets for the attack: the Power and Light District, Country Club Plaza, Crown Center, and the Sprint Center in Kansas City. He has forwarded target packages, including photos, tourism and business information, and maps, to external operations leadership via Nashir. Target packages are forwarded to the other assailants, with instructions not to print any hard copies.