MOSCOW, August 28 (RIA Novosti) - The US government is currently tracking some 300 US citizens who are fighting alongside the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, concerned that the radicalized Americans could return to wreak havoc on their homeland, according to The Washington Times.
“We know that there are several hundred American passport holders running around with ISIS in Syria or Iraq,” a US official who preferred to remain anonymous was quoted saying by The Washington Times. The official confirmed the number of US citizens devoted to the IS were over previous estimates of 100.
“It’s hard to tell whether or not they’re in Syria or moved to Iraq,” the official added.
US officials have voiced concerns that US sympathizers of the IS could return home from Syria and Iraq to make use of their newly acquired terrorist skills in the United States.
Social media threats have already proven the presence of IS supporters in the US in recent weeks, according to The Washington Times. The IS tweeted a photo of an Islamic flag in front of the White House at night as well as a picture of the Old Republic building in Chicago with the threat, “We are in your state. We are in your cities. We are in your streets. You are our goals anywhere,” The Inquistr reported.
The US Secret Service is investigating the incident in Washington D.C. while the Homeland Security Department is encouraging police to be especially alert in light of these recent attacks, The Washington Times reported.
“If these people have been identified, there needs to be a discussion with regard to how and when they are allowed back in the US,” said retired Army Major Mike Lyons, a senior fellow with the Truman National Security Project and a CBS Radio News analyst, according to The Washington Times.
Lyons states the threat of radicalized Americans returning to the United States is a “new hazard” for the Homeland Security Department which requires a specific plan to deal with those coming back from Syria and Iraq.
Opinions are mixed concerning how dangerous foreign fighters returning to their home countries could be. According to Aaron Miller, national security analyst and vice president for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, believes the projected 10,000 to 15,000 IS militants do not pose a significant threat to the country and that Americans are known for overreacting to such threats.
Lyons, on the other hand, believes the current situation with the IS could spark a surge of suicide bombers in the United States or larger-scale attacks organized by foreign fighters, The Washington Times reported.
Recent concerns over foreign jihadist recruits have gained attention with the confirmed death of an American IS member, Douglas McCain, killed in Syria this week. McCain was identified based on the US passport he had in his pocket, according to The Washington Times.
“We continue to use every tool we possess to disrupt and dissuade individuals from traveling abroad for violent jihad and to track and engage those who return,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said of the current situation.
US officials said intelligence agencies would place suspected citizens on a watch list or a no-fly list.
The IS is a Sunni jihadist group, fighting across Syria and northern Iraq with the aim of seizing Baghdad. On June 29, the group instilled an Islamic caliphate over its conquered regions.