Can the lure of ISIS be so powerful that more and more young Americans are going abroad to join? According to recent reports, there has been an increase in the number of Americans going overseas to assist terror groups in Syria and Iraq. More than 20 legal residents or American citizens have attempted to join their ranks or provide assistance in those countries since March 2013. ISIS sympathizers have been the source of an increasing threat of lone-wolf attacks, with the recent deadly siege in Sydney being the perfect example of vulnerability.
This year, federal law enforcement has been wrangling with homegrown terror threats almost every other week. These threats involved people all around the country, from Colorado to Minnesota to Florida. The global reach of propagandists and recruiters from terror groups like ISIS continue to challenge federal law enforcement.
Minneapolis residents Abdullah Yusuf and Abdi Nur are two of the most recent Americans to be identified as attempting to aid ISIS. Yusuf, arrested and charged, was intercepted at a Minneapolis airport as he was allegedly about to board a flight to Turkey in hopes of joining the radical Islamists. Nur, who is not in custody, was charged in November with conspiracy to aid ISIS. He is believed to still be in Syria fighting with the terror group.
In March, former American soldier Eric Glenn Harroun was charged for conspiring with Syrian rebel group Al-Nusra. Harroun later died of an overdose.
Self-radicalized convert Zale Thompson allegedly stalked and butchered a New York City rookie cop with a hatchet. Police killed Thompson during the attack. A police bulletin released showed that Thompson’s search history turned up the search term jihad 277 times.
In August, North Carolina resident Donald Morgan was indicted on a firearms charge. He was interrogated by FBI agents over postings on his social media which supposedly pledged his allegiance to ISIS. According to investigators, Morgan was planning on going to Lebanon in a few days, thus labeling him a flight risk. Morgan denied the charges and pleaded not guilty.
In October, authorities in Frankfurt, Germany, stopped three girls from Denver en route to Syria. The teenagers were eventually returned to their families and not charged, according to The Associated Press. All three girls were U.S. citizens. One girl was of Sudanese descent, while the other two were of Somali descent. NPR reported that the teenagers exchanged over 9,000 messages with ISIS members online in the past six months.
Also in October, another three teenagers, all siblings from Chicago, were detained by FBI agents at O’Hare International Airport according to The Washington Post. Nineteen-year-old Mohammed Hamzah Khan faces criminal charges for planning to join a known terrorist group. His younger siblings may also face charges and are currently under investigation by authorities. Their names were not released because they were minors. Their mother believes they were brainwashed by propaganda online.
Reportedly, ISIS members are using social media tools like Ask.fm and Twitter to lure young Americans abroad. Stacey Hervey, Denver-based crime and forensics teacher, said that the group was using tactics similar to online sexual predators.
James B. Comey, Federal Bureau of Investigation director, agreed with Hervey, adding that the “slick programming” was being broadcasted in 23 languages. Mubin Shaik, former Taliban recruiter, said that the message is also being disseminated by Westerners. Shaik is currently living in Canada as a national security operative. Shaik said to the International Business Times that Westerners were also involved in the spreading of the poisonous message. He cited some of the videos that were released by the group which corroborate his conclusion that the people were “trained in the West.”
The United Nations estimates that 15,000 foreigners, including young Americans, have succumbed to the lure of ISIS and other radical groups abroad. According to UN reports, the foreigners come from 80 different countries, including Australia, Europe and America.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by shankar s. – Flickr License