- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2014

The concentration of radical Islamic fighters in Syria, coupled with the length of time they’ve been training and fighting, has led U.S. officials to put the terrorism threat they pose to the U.S. on par with organizations operating out of Yemen.

“Syria is probably the number one threat — or, with … threats out of Yemen — to the American homeland right now and elsewhere in the west,” Michael Vickers, the Pentagon’s Under Secretary for Defense Intelligence, said while speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, ABC News reported.

Mr. Vickers, a former special forces operator, added that foreign fighters “who are Western passport holders, including Americans — a subset of that numbers in the four digits.”

Security experts expect a percentage of those passport holders to try and attack the American homeland.

“The number of foreign fighters that are already in place in Syria, and a number of other Westerners in that group, is one that is unprecedented and is a larger number than we ever saw in ungoverned spaces in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department, ABC News reported.

Members of the panel also discussed one of their biggest concerns, which is the prospect of terrorists using nonmetallic bombs in a terrorist attack.

On July 1, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, reported that Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the master bomb maker who helped Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with his failed 2009 Christmas Day terror attack, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is serving a life sentence as a result of his guilty plea to all eight counts of a federal indictment charging him for his role in the botched bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 over Detroit.

“ISIS’s rapid advance from Syria into Iraq is … winning the group new recruits and the admiration of some other terrorists, including one of the world’s most notorious bomb makers,” Mr. Engel said.


• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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