On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry told MSNBC that there were roughly 100 American citizens fighting alongside ISIS overseas. Later that morning, a senior official with the Obama administration confirmed in a press conference that some of the Americans fighting with ISIS have returned to the U.S.
The official echoed Kerry, saying that 100 Americans had left the U.S. to join ISIS. “It includes those who’ve gone, those who’ve tried to go, some who’ve come back and are under active... The FBI is looking at them,” the official said, according to Time. “These are FBI matters, I refer you to them on specifics.”
This is the first confirmation from administration officials that U.S.-born ISIS fighters are back on American soil. On Sept. 12, U.S. Rep. Tom Bishop told an audience in Long Island that 40 Americans who left to join ISIS ranks had returned to the U.S. and were being watched by the FBI. The administration did not confirm a number in Monday's briefing.
The U.S. has been closely tracking U.S. citizens fighting for ISIS, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Friday:
Well, with respect to the Americans who may be engaged in combat in Iraq and Syria, this is something that our national security agencies and counterterrorism team are taking very seriously. It’s something we track closely. And we are doing obviously all that we can to both gather the necessary information and take the appropriate precautions to the greatest extent that we possibly can.
Last week Senate Democrats blocked discussion on a bill that would strip any American who joins foreign terror groups of their citizenship. A similar bill was considered surrounding al-Qaeda several years ago. Democrats say that there is more time needed to consider the constitutional rights of these Americans.
The confirmation from the Obama administration came just after a horrifying new recording released by ISIS urging Muslims to kill civilians in the coalition against ISIS. The 42-minute audio was released on social media Sunday. The ISIS spokesperson prompts:
If you can kill a disbelieving American or European, especially the spiteful and filthy French, or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.That call to action makes fighters fresh from the ISIS front lines even more troubling. ISIS has been effective in its social media recruitment, and has already caused security scares with calls for "lone wolf" acts of terrorism. This last Thursday, NYPD strengthened security in Times Square after a post on an ISIS message board called for an attack in various locations across the U.S.
Though U.S. intelligence says ISIS doesn't have the capability of carrying out a domestic terrorist attack, they certainly seem to have captured our attention. And with ISIS fighters confirmed in the U.S., the possibility of containing the threats from the militant group seems all the more daunting.
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