Washington • The flow of foreign fighters into Syria has grown in just the last few months, with dozens of Americans joining the country’s conflict along with thousands of Europeans, FBI Director James Comey said Friday.
U.S. law enforcement officials have expressed concern about the influence of hard-line jihadists in Syria, many of them linked to al-Qaida, as they seek to overthrow President Bashar Assad. They say fighters from the U.S. or Europe looking to join the cause could easily become radicalized and import those influences when they return home.
Speaking to reporters, Comey said the number of Americans who have either traveled to Syria or sought to do so had grown by a few dozen since the start of the year, and that there are Americans in Syria who are trying to bring others over.
Comey compared the situation to that of Afghanistan when thousands of Muslims worldwide who traveled to the country during the 10-year Soviet occupation returned home with the fervor of jihad and sometimes sought to overthrow their own governments.
"All of us with a memory of the ’80s and ’90s saw the line drawn from Afghanistan in the ’80s and ’90s to Sept. 11," he said. "We see Syria as that, but an order of magnitude worse," because more foreign fighters are going there and the country is easier to get to.
He added: "We are determined not to let lines be drawn from Syria today to a future 9/11."
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