US Watching Foreign Fighter Threat 'Very Carefully'

January 13,2015

WASHINGTON— The attacks in Paris -- and concerns that more terrorists from a cell linked to Said and Cherif Kouachi are waiting to strike -- have officials in the U.S. taking notice and bracing for what may come next.

More security in the streets and outside government buildings. More checks at the airport.

These are among the extra precautions put in place by the Department of Homeland Security, following the attacks in Paris.

DHS says there is no specific threat. U.S. officials are worried, though, about the danger posed by returning foreign fighters. A senior administration official told VOA, “We’re watching that phenomenon very carefully, especially as we see signs of demoralization on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq.”

The number of foreign fighters drawn to the conflict keeps growing. U.S. officials say there are at least 18,000 foreign fighters from around the world.

The Brooking Institution’s Jeremy Shapiro said many are coming back. “Some 2,000 to 3,000 people have gone from Europe and the United States; the last numbers I’ve heard, they might be a few months old, and roughly 50 percent of them have returned.”

A Norwegian activist -- once recruited by extremists -- has seen it first hand. Yousef Bartho Assidiq said, “Most of those who come home, apart from maybe a few, they are home actually to recruit more people.”

An estimated 100 to 200 of the foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria are from the U.S. So far, U.S. Intelligence officials have yet to put a number on how many of them have returned.