FBI: Fewer Americans leaving to join ISIS

FBI: Fewer Americans leaving to join ISIS
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Fewer Americans are seeking to leave the United States and join Islamic extremists in the Middle East, the head of the FBI said on Wednesday.

The change is preliminary, FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump: Yates either lying or grossly incompetent Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Trump knocks Sally Yates ahead of congressional testimony MORE cautioned during a hearing on Capitol Hill, but it could spell the decline of what officials had warned was a troubling trend.

“We’re starting to notice that curve, which was going up like a hockey stick, has flattened a little bit,” Comey told the House Homeland Security Committee hearing. “We are seeing fewer people attempt to travel to join ISIL in Syria.”

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ISIL is an alternate acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Earlier in the year, the FBI had watched roughly nine people per month leave the country, he added but had seen just “six in the last three and a half months.”

U.S. officials have been deeply concerned about what they describe as a wave of Americans aiming to leave the country and join ISIS, which has taken over large swaths of territory amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war.

Earlier this year, Comey testified before a different congressional committee that more than 200 Americans have “traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to participate in the conflict.”

That number is just a fraction of the total number of foreigners who have fled to join ISIS, however, which may reach 20,000.

A bipartisan House Homeland Security Committee report last month accused the Obama administration of failing to come up with a comprehensive plan to keep Americans from traveling to Syria.

Comey on Wednesday said that the FBI was “watching very seriously” the chances that Americans trained in Syria will return to the U.S.

It’s an issue “that we are watching for the next five years-plus,” Comey said.

“Inevitably, there will be a terrorist diaspora out of the so-called Caliphate,” he added, at which point foreign-trained extremists could reach the U.S.

There could be multiple explanations for the recent drop-off, Comey said.

One possibility might be that the efforts to stop the flow by the U.S. and other countries, such as Turkey, are having an impact, he suggested. Another is that people are still traveling to the region — just doing it without the U.S.’s knowledge.