- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2014

Days before a siege of an Australian coffee shop reported to have left two dead, FBI Director James B. Comey warned that home-grown extremists are the bureau’s top terror concern.

“I continue to be concerned about the potential for homegrown violent extremists, especially connected with ISIL,” FBI Director James Comey told reporters last week.

Authorities have not suggested that the gunman said to be involved in the siege, identified in news reports as Iranian-born Man Haron Monis, was linked to the extremist group or even inspired by it.

But speculation has been widespread about his motives since the man — who had an extensive criminal past — took hostages in the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney on Monday morning and had them hold up a black flag with the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith. He also reportedly demanded an Islamic State flag in the course of the siege.

Police stormed the cafe, ending the siege, but they have not yet commented on deaths or injuries.

The Islamic State, known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, has campaigned heavily on social media to not only attract people to come to the Middle East, but to also carry out terrorist acts in their own countries.

Mr. Comey estimated that the FBI has tracked roughly 150 people who have tried to travel to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, have traveled there and returned to the U.S., or traveled there and are still there fighting.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have made efforts to increase cooperation with local communities to try to spot would-be extremists.

“Efforts to prevent crime, and in particular violent crime, are most effective when law enforcement establishes strong and trusting partnerships with community members themselves,” a DHS report on the threat said.

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