Americans Are Waging Jihad In Syria, And The FBI Is Worried
Islamic extremists fighting in the Syrian Civil War may have some new recruits: American citizens. As Sunni terrorists continue to fight the government of president Bashar al-Assad, a new report reveals that, according to U.S. Intelligence officials, more than 100 Americans have traveled to Syria to wage jihad. FBI Director James B. Comey told reporters that the agency's fear is that Americans who have joined the Al Qaeda-aligned extremist groups in Syria might return to the States to carry out terrorist attacks.
"All of us with a memory of the '80s and '90s saw the line drawn from Afghanistan in the '80s and '90s to Sept. 11," Comey said at a press conference. "We see Syria as that, but an order of magnitude worse in a couple of respects. Far more people going there. Far easier to travel to and back from."
Tracking Americans who return from Syria has become one of the bureau's highest priorities; the FBI conducts round-the-clock surveillance on these individuals to assess whether they've received training or indoctrination from Islamic extremists. "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.," a senior counterterrorism official told The New York Times.
In March, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) posted a video of two men claiming to be LA gang members fighting for President al-Assad. One of the men goes by Creeper, and says he's from the Sun Valley GW-13 gang, an affiliation of LA gangs linked to the Mexican mafia. The other man calls himself Wino and says he belongs to a gang called the Westside Armenian Power. The Christian Armenian Minority in Syria are known to be supporters of Assad.
"This is very unique because these guys are over there, and they are with the pro-Syria forces and pro-Hezbollah forces," Steven Stalinksy, executive director of MEMRI, told CNN. "We have been monitoring foreign fighters over the years, and there has been a handful of Americans going to fight, but they have been going to fight against Assad."
In the video, the men fire rifles from behind a cinder block at what they call "enemigos." "It's Syria, homie. We're in Syria, homie," says Wino. "In Middle East, homie, still gangbanging, homie," says Creeper.
The authenticity of the video hasn't been confirmed, but if these two men really are in Syria, then they would be the first reported instance of Americans fighting on behalf of Assad. And two is a modest number compared to the more-than-100 Americans, not to mention the thousands of Europeans, who are joining the rebel forces and jihadists.
"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," a senior law enforcement official told The New York Times . And according to The Daily Beast, senior intelligence officials believe that six to 12 Americans who have traveled to Syria to fight with the extremists have now returned.