Concern that Americans who have joined al-Qaida affiliates in Syria will return to home to carry out terrorist attacks, says FBI director.
The number of Americans traveling to Syria to fight in the civil war is increasing steadily and is of real concern to U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials, FBI Director James B. Comey said on the weekend.
Comey did not provide an exact number, but said the trend was “getting worse.” In an interview four months ago, he said that “dozens” had already joined the fight, the Washington Post reported.
The FBI’s concern is that the Americans who have joined extremist groups allied with al-Qaida in Syria will return to the United 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. “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. So, there’s going to be a diaspora out of Syria at some point and we are determined not to let lines be drawn from Syria today to a future 9/11.”
Comey said that Americans in Syria are actively recruiting other Americans to join the fight. The threat they pose, he added, is of concern not only to the U.S. but also is “a huge focus” of European intelligence officials.
Thousands of fighters are already traveling from Europe to Syria, causing FBI concern as they could also get into the U.S. via these “visa-waiver countries.”
“If someone flows out of Syria, they can flow in here very easily,” Comey said.
Comey named the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen as the greatest threat to the U.S, adding that was concerned by the group’s interest in attacking America and its bombmaking expertise.