'Western terrorists, potential threat for US, allies'

'Western terrorists, potential threat for US, allies'
Mon Jul 21, 2014 11:11:31

Thousands of foreign extremists have joined the ranks of terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq in recent months, according to US officials, driving fresh concern about potential terrorist threats aimed at the United States or its allies.

The surge, as well as intelligence that Yemeni terrorists have developed a powerful cellphone bomb designed to avoid detection at airports, is behind the Obama administration's increasingly urgent warnings that a European or American passport holder might try to take down a passenger jet or plan other deadly mayhem, US-based daily Los Angele Times reports.

As many as 10,000 foreign militants — a third more than in February — have joined the foreign-backed insurgents seeking unrest in Syria and the ISIL terrorists who have swept across northern Iraq, according to an unnamed US counter-terrorism official cited in the report that spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments.

As many as 3,000 of them hold European or other Western passports and thus can travel easily across most borders. Several dozen, perhaps as many as 100, hold US passports, and officials say that number is growing.

The potential partnership between some of those Westerners and sophisticated bomb makers from the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long viewed as the terrorist network's most dangerous offshoot, has raised alarm in Washington and other capitals.

"It's something that gives us really extreme, extreme concern," US Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC News last week. "In some ways, it's more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general."

Meanwhile, FBI Director James B. Comey told reporters in Washington that the threat "keeps me up at night." He sees the region as a "launching ground" for potential Sept. 11-style mass-casualty attacks in this country.

Two US citizens have been arrested on terrorism-related charges since April before boarding flights to Turkey, suspected of being on their way to help Syria terrorists. One is said to have paid his way with his federal tax refund. In May, a Florida man became a suicide bomber in northern Syria.

Some of the Western militants are joining Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Others have rallied to ISIL, which broke away from Al-Qaeda and has seized territory in eastern Syria and northern Iraq.


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