MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new congressional study out Tuesday says that American recruits for the Islamic State terror group leave from all across the country, with the highest percentage coming out of Minnesota.
The 65-page report from the Department of Homeland Security says that the government has failed to stop more than 250 Americans from traveling, or trying to travel, to in Syria since 2011. In the 58 cases that are public, 26 percent of the recruits who made the journey, or attempted to, were from Minnesota.
The states or areas with the next high percentages of recruits are California (12 percent) and New York/New Jersey (12 percent).
The report’s main message is that government currently lacks an effective strategy to prevent recruits from traveling to Syria. It also says law enforcement agencies are increasingly unable to monitor possible recruiting as ISIS is using more secure technology to communicate with those it’s seeking to influence.
“Americans who make it to the conflict zone are reaching back to recruit others,” the report states. “A number of the cases we reviewed involved Americans who made it to Syria and attempted to remotely recruit others back home.”
The report listed Abdi Nur, of Minneapolis, as a prime example. He left the country last year and has since spent months trying to persuade his friends to do the same.
“His peer-to-peer recruiting nearly worked, as six of his friends attempted to leave the United States for Syria; they were arrested by the FBI this April,” the report said.
The report also highlighted the dangers of “returnees,” Western recruits who go back to their native countries after fighting overseas. The report says that several dozen returnees managed to make it back into America, although they were not identified in the report.
While America has seen an increasing number of recruits leaving for Syria every year, the problem is much more pronounced in other counties, especially in Europe and North Africa. For instance, the report says 5,000 fighters have left Tunisia to join ISIS, and 1,550 recruits have come from France and 700 from the UK.
In total, there are an estimated 25,000 foreign fighters who’ve joined ISIS. These recruits hail from more than 100 countries and have filled the terror group’s ranks despite Western airstrikes.
The report gives 32 recommendations to fight terrorist travel and recruiting. They include having U.S. officials work closely with other governments to share information on possible terrorists and their movements, empowering communities with the ability to better report suspicious activity, and helping non-governmental bodies produce and spread counter narratives to ISIS propaganda.