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Homeland Security Chair: Up to 200 Americans Fighting for Islamic State in Syria, Iraq

5:26 PM, Sep 2, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
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House Homeland Security Committee chair Michael McCaul said this afternoon on CNN that 100-200 Americans are currently fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria:

Said CNN host Wolf Blitzer, "The numbers we've heard, and you're the chairman of the committee so you probably have more precise numbers, maybe a dozen Americans have actually gone over to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Is that right?"

"No, that number is actually much larger than what you stated," said Chairman McCaul. "I believe based on the briefings I've received that we're talking somewhere in the range between 100 to 200 Americans that are over in Syria and Iraq joining the fight, in addition to the tens of thousands of other foreign fighters including a lot of Western Europeans, all of which, as you have pointed out, have Western passports and travel documents. Which is why the biggest -- what is the homeland security concern here? It's the fact that we have Americans and those with travel documents that can come back to the United States and perpetrate and act of terrorism. We're on a really high state of alert right now."

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Chairman McCaul emails to say, "Below is a transcript of Chairman McCaul’s remarks. We would appreciate if you would also include his remarks that follow your quotation, which clarify that 100-200 is the estimated number of Americans in the region and that it is difficult in determining which al Qaeda faction they are fighting for."

Here's that extended transcript:

Wolf: From the numbers we’ve heard … about a dozen Americans have gone to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Is this true?

McCaul: No, that number is actually much larger than what you stated. I believe based on the briefings I have received that we are talking somewhere in the range between 100 to 200 Americans that are over in Syria and Iraq joining the fight. In addition to the tens of thousands of other foreign fighters including a lot of Western Europeans all of which, as you’ve pointed out, have western passports and travel documents. Which is why the biggest homeland security concern here is the fact that we have Americans and those with travel documents who can come back here to the United States and perpetrate an act of terrorism. We are really on a high state of alert right now.

Wolf: I have heard that the 100 to 200 number is a total of Americans over there in terrorist groups, not just ISIS but other groups like Al-Nusra.

McCaul: Al-Nusra is the core al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. What we do know is that there are between 100 to 200 Americans in the region. I would argue, Wolf, that we don’t have precise intelligence on the ground to determine which al-Qaeda faction they are working for or fighting with but the fact is those numbers are very alarming to me and they should concern the American people.

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