US says Syria crisis 'matter of homeland security'

US says Syria crisis 'matter of homeland security'
Sat Feb 8, 2014 10:14:47

A top American security official has described the foreign-backed Syrian crisis as a “matter of homeland security” for the US, raising concerns that foreign nationals, including Americans, engaged in Syria insurgency will wage terror in their native countries when they return home.

Secretary of US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson made the remarks when he returned Thursday night from a two-day visit to Poland where he met with top security officials of his nation’s European allies Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.

Johnson was accompanied in the trip with another top American security official Attorney General Eric Holder.

The two participated in the European Union’s G6 Interior Ministers meeting to discuss concerns over foreigners joining the militant groups in Syria and the potential threat they pose to their home countries when they eventually return back.

Johnson expressed particular concern about those American citizens that had joined the insurgents in Syria and have already returned home. He did not, however, disclose the number of Americans that have travelled to Syria to fight along the side of anti-Damascus militants.

“Syria was the number one topic of conversation for them and for us. Syria has become a matter of Homeland Security,” Johnson said Friday at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

“Based on our work and the work of our international partners, we know individuals from the US, Canada and Europe are traveling to Syria to fight in the conflict,” he said.

Johnson admitted that the United States does not have a good estimation of who these militants are.

“Syria has become a matter of homeland security. DHS, the FBI and the intelligence community will continue to work closely to identify those foreign fighters that represent a threat to the homeland.”

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, CIA Director John Brennan also said militant groups in Syria are increasing in number and may soon attack both regional and Western countries.

Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper further informed the Senate Intelligence Committee last month that al-Qaeda groups in Syria have set up training camps “to train people to go back to their countries.”

The US spy master also asserted that “7,500 or so” militants from 50 countries were now operating in Syria.

The concerns expressed by US authorities over the threat of foreign militants comes while Washington and US Congress have pushed for sending American arms and military supplies to the insurgents in Syria.

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