The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Wednesday that the Obama administration must confront the growing threat that the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab poses to the U.S. — in particular from Americans recruited to fight for the terrorist group overseas and who could return home to launch an attack on American soil.
Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, said that more than a hundred Americans are fighting on behalf of terrorist groups abroad and that more people living inside the U.S. are being recruited by groups such as al-Shabaab, which carried out the terrorist attack on an upscale shopping mall in Kenya that left 69 people dead.
“The events in Kenya, while an ocean away, are not far from us,” Mr. McCaul said. “The notion that if we don’t talk about it, the problem will go away is disturbing. The Administration’s failed narrative of al Qaeda being all but decimated shows a lack of will for addressing threats, and presents weakness our enemies will exploit.”
The remarks kicked off a hearing of the Homeland Security Committee that was billed as “From al-Shabaab to al-Nusra: How Westerners Joining Terror Groups Overseas Affect the Homeland.”
“The most striking concern for Americans is that within the ranks of al-Shabab are our own neighbors, including 40-50 known fighters who have left our shores to fight alongside these jihadists in Africa and the Middle East,” Mr. McCaul said. He said these fighters could come back to haunt the U.S.
“Overseas, while fighting and supporting terrorists, they receive military training, combat experience and grow their jihadist network. Coming back with these skills and connections extends the spider web of extremism to our own backyards,” Mr. McCaul said.
Richard W. Stanek, sheriff of Hennepin County in Minnesota, said that since 2007 there have been several dozen young men that have traveled from Minnesota to Somalia to “fight in the ‘holy war’” or “support the al-Shabab movement.”
“We also believe that after spending time abroad, some of these young men return to Minnesota, assimilate back into the community and attempt to radicalize others in the Twin Cities,” Sheriff Stanek said. “These Al-Shabab trained operatives pose a significant threat to our community by preying on vulnerable individuals for material or direct support, or by carrying out an attack in the United States.”