At least 50 Americans joined extremists in Syria: US

At least 50 Americans joined extremists in Syria: US
Thu Mar 6, 2014 13:31:41

At least 50 Americans have joined the mix of extremist groups in Syria, warning that some could try to mount terrorist attacks at home, US intelligence officials say.

US Intelligence officials said the Syrian conflict has become one of the biggest magnets for extremists around the globe since CIA-backed militants fought to oust Soviet troops from Afghanistan in the 1980s, a war that ultimately gave rise to Al-Qaeda.

James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that “7,500 or so” foreign militants are in Syria from 50 countries. Clapper had cited an estimate of 7,000 at a Senate hearing last week.

A US intelligence official told The Los Angeles Times that the total includes at least 50 Americans, a more concrete estimate than authorities have given previously. He declined to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the figure publicly.

A report in January by the Israel-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center estimated that as many as 1,800 militants from European countries have also fought in Syria.

CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday that Al-Qaeda is training foreign terrorists at camps in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

“We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al-Qaeda organization to recruit individuals … to use Syria as a launching pad” for attacks on the West, Brennan said.

Clapper said he was particularly concerned about a small cadre of Al-Qaeda operatives who have fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and who aspire to attack the United States.

“Not only are fighters being drawn to Syria, but so are technologies and techniques that pose particular problems to our defenses,” Clapper said.

James B. Comey, the FBI director, has said that counter-terrorism officials are trying to track US veterans of the Syrian war who have returned home.

Prosecutors last year charged US Army veteran Eric Harroun, 31, a native of Phoenix, Ariz., with federal crimes related to fighting with the Nusra Front, a Syrian extremist group linked to Al-Qaeda. Harroun pleaded guilty in September to a lesser charge and was released.

Nicole Lynn Mansfield, 33, of Flint, Mich., married to a Saudi man, was killed in May with militants in northwestern Syria.


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