Islamic extremists in Syria that have ties to al-Qaeda are trying to recruit and train Americans who have traveled there to carry out attacks once they return home, according to senior American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.
The extremist’s efforts are in the early stages of recruitment and are the latest challenge officials face that the Syrian civil war has created. A report from The New York Times says around 70 Americans have traveled to Syria, or tried to, in order to fight alongside Muslim extremists.
Tracking radicalized Americans who’ve returned from Syria has become the FBI’s highest counterterrorism priorities. In a meeting with reporters early last month FBI director James B. Comey said:
We are focused on trying to figure out what our people are up to, who should be spoken to, who should be followed, who should be charged. I mean, it’s hard for me to characterize beyond that. It’s something we are intensely focused on.
The Syrian civil war is a magnet that draws extremists from the U.S., and around the world, to the region to fight jihad against Bashar al-Assad’s government. The handful of Americans who’ve returned to the U.S. are a potential threat to our nation’s security. Undoubtedly, they have been brain-washed though extensive training and jihadist indoctrination.
Officials say the handful of Americans that have returned from Syria are being observed through round-the-clock surveillance. A senior counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said:
We know Al Qaeda is using Syria to identify individuals they can recruit, provide them additional indoctrination so they’re further radicalized, and leverage them into future soldiers, possibly in the U.S.
Many of the Americans who’ve traveled to Syria are still fighting there, although a few have died on the battlefield. One such radical, Nicole Lynn Mansfield, 33, of Flint, Mich. was killed in May of 2013 in the Idlib Province. Eric G. Harroun, former Army soldier from Phoenix, was indicted in Virginia by a federal grand jury.
The allegations against Harroun were that he fought alongside the al-Nusra Front, one of the Syrian opposition groups linked to Al Qaeda. He pled guilty to a lesser charge that involved conspiracy to transfer defense articles and services, and was released from custody.
The concerns of American officials involving recruitment and training of Americans are based on intelligence. This includes information gleaned from passenger travel records, human sources on the ground in Syria, intercepted electronic communications, social media postings and surveillance of Americans overseas who have expressed interest in traveling to Syria.
The European Union has also been providing DHS with information on Americans traveling to Syria. The intelligence from the EU is due to a 2011, agreement to share information concerning possible security threats. Al-Qaeda has been attempting for years to get their operatives into the U.S. for an attack on American soil.
One senior law enforcement official said about the threat of al-Qaeda reaching the U.S.: “That Al Qaeda would like to get operatives into the homeland or in Western Europe has been a persistent theme over the past several years.”
It’s no secret that Islamic extremists have long desired to see their flag of jihad raised atop of the White House. A video uploaded to Youtube in Oct. 2012 shows a radical extremists expressing that view. He said:
I just want to send a short message to America and all the infidel countries of the west, we started our Jihad here on Sham soil and we won’t finish except on your land, our Jihad started here and in Allah’s will our Jihad won’t finish except on your land and this banner in Allah’s will, will be raised on the White House.
Radical Islamic communities already exist here in our nation. There are at least 35 Islamic communities across the U.S., according to The Clarion Project. From New York to Florida and locales in-between, radical Muslims living in communities which are closed to the public. Many of these communities are suspected of having terrorist training centers.
One such community called Islamberg is located in Hancock, NY and has drawn suspicions of both local residents and law enforcement officials for several years. The Islamic community has a sentry posted at the entrance of the enclave to keep potential intruders out. Local residents have reported hearing weapons fire within the community.
In Nov. this author reported for an Examiner piece called, “Al-Qaeda in the U.S. exploited immigration process, plotted death of Army Captain. It had been reported that al-Qaeda terrorists were living in Kentucky in 2009. They received public housing assistance while living in Bowling Green as refugees. According to the report it’s suspected many bomb-makers are already inside the U.S. waiting to strike.
- UNICEF report: Radical Muslims behead 2 children in Central African Republic
- Syrian cleric with jihadist views granted U.S. visa
- A time for war: Hezbollah allegedly preparing for strikes against Israel
- Syrian rebels toast civilians in ovens, murder families outside of Damascus
- Radical Muslims slaughter elephants, use ivory to fund their campaigns of terror
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