FBI: Al-Qaida Eyes U.S. Recruits

Published: 8/15/2016 10:42:18 AM
Modified: 1/21/2014 12:00:00 AM
Washington — With Al-Qaida militants surging in the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. law enforcement officials are increasingly concerned about efforts to recruit and radicalize American citizens by drawing them to the region and sending them back to this country to carry out attacks.

FBI Director James B. Comey calls the threat one of the bureau’s top priorities and said the agency is working to identify and track U.S. residents who travel overseas, embrace al-Qaida ideology and return to the U.S.

“We are focused on trying to figure out what our people are up to, who should be spoken to, who should be followed, who should be charged,” Comey said in a recent meeting with reporters. “It’s something we are intensely focused on.”

Two cases of radicalized Americans surfaced last year.

Nicole Lynn Mansfield, a nurse from Flint, Mich., died in May while fighting alongside anti-government militants in northern Syria. She reportedly tossed a grenade from a passing car at Syrian government soldiers, who then opened fire on the vehicle.

Mansfield, 33, was still carrying her Michigan driver’s license. She had married a man from Dubai and converted to Islam.

The other is Eric Harroun, a former U.S. Army private from Tucson, who pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to violate arms-control laws after fighting in Syria alongside al-Nusra Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaida that the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization.

Federal law enforcement officials said they have been tracing other U.S. residents traveling abroad, specifically Somali Americans from Minnesota who have gone to fight in that country. They are also watching several individuals identified soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, such as half a dozen men from the Buffalo suburb of Lackawanna, N.Y., who trained at an al-Qaida facility in Afghanistan.

Comey suggested it is all the more challenging today to identify suspects because al-Qaida has been “metastasizing” into splinter groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya.




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