Islamic State backers under scrutiny in US

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm •  Published: August 22, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — Officially, the FBI agents who swarmed Donald Ray Morgan at Kennedy Airport this month were there to arrest him on a mundane gun charge. But they whisked him away to their Manhattan office and grilled him for two hours on an entirely different topic: Islamic State extremists.

Over and over, they asked Morgan, a 44-year-old North Carolina man, converted Muslim and author of pro-extremist tweets, whether he had traveled to Syria to support the militant group. More important, they wanted know whether he could identify any fighters with U.S. ties who had left the region to return to America.

The questioning, recounted in a recent court hearing, offered a glimpse into U.S. law enforcement's intensifying efforts to identify Islamic State sympathizers who could help export the group's brand of violent jihad to the United States.

They come amid a new barrage of U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group that beheaded American journalist James Foley. The group called Foley's killing revenge for previous strikes against militants in Iraq.

Federal and New Police York Department officials have estimated that at least 100 Americans could be fighting with the Sunni extremists who have seized territory in northern and western Iraq. In April, a Colorado woman and convert to Islam was arrested before she could travel to Syria to marry a fighter she had met online. More recently, a Texas man who was arrested trying to board a flight to Turkey pleaded guilty to terror charges alleging he wanted to join the group.

In a Pentagon news conference, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey called the Islamic State an "immediate threat," in part because of the number of Europeans and other foreigners who have traveled to the region to join the group.

"And those folks can go home at some point," he said.

An FBI and Homeland Security Department intelligence bulletin issued Friday said there were no credible or specific threats from the Islamic State against the U.S. homeland. However, it cautioned that "violent extremists who support (the group) have demonstrated the capability to attempt attacks on U.S. targets overseas with little-to-no warning."

NYPD counterterrorism officials, long wary of another al-Qaida strike since the Sept. 11 attacks, have increasingly turned their attention to the Islamic State threat and efforts to recruit supporters through social media.

The group used hashtags like #BewareAmerica and #CalamityWillBefallUS to make threats against the United States, NYPD analyst Rebecca Weiner said at a recent briefing for private security officials.

"What we've seen in these hashtag campaigns is a lot of pictures of U.S. cities, including New York," she said.

Weiner cited the arrest this year of a Frenchman - radicalized after spending a year in Syria - in a fatal shooting of three people at the Brussels Jewish Museum. An AK-47 found in his possession was wrapped in a flag with inscriptions from the Islamic State - giving more cause for concern about "about returning foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria," she said.

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