GOP senator warns of ISIS infiltrating Latin America

GOP senator warns of ISIS infiltrating Latin America
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Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) is pressing President Obama to address the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic extremists in Latin America, ahead of his trip to Peru later this week.  

"ISIS and its sympathizers are growing more overt in Latin America," Ernst wrote in a letter to Obama sent Monday that was obtained first by The Hill. 

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"Their increased used of messaging in Spanish and Portuguese, couple with calls for terror in the region, exemplify ISIS's unwavering determination to change and imbed in new surroundings," she wrote. 

Ansar al-Khilafa Brazil, an Islamic jihadist group in Brazil, pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July, according to SITE Intelligence group. 

Ernst, a retired National Army Guard lieutenant colonel, said that pledge would "likely not be the last." 

"The increasing rise of ISIS fighters leaving the Caribbean should indicate to you that this is not a narrowly focused problem," she added. She said the decades of violence and illicit activity throughout Latin America makes it fertile ground for extremist groups like ISIS to prosper.

Ernst's appeal comes as ISIS is being squeezed in its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria, as the U.S.-backed offensives to take back that territory in both places began earlier this year. 

ISIS has indicated that despite losing those territories, it will continue to exist as a terrorist organization. 

Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she did not support using land retaken as the measure of success against ISIS, and pressed Obama to address the growing fight against ISIS with Latin American officials. 

"It is not an accurate representation of the progress we are making against Islamic extremist groups that wish to do us harm. For this reason, in your upcoming meetings with Latin American officials, I ask that you discuss ways to address the growing fight against ISIS," she said. 

 

Joni Ernst Letter by Kristina Wong on Scribd