I would be shocked if there weren’t a few returning jihadists who try to carry out attacks on the homeland.
Intelligence increasingly shows al Qaeda is encouraging American and other western fighters in Syria to undertake special training to prepare them for possibly returning to their home countries to carry out attacks, U.S. officials told CNN.
National security officials are concerned that amid the mayhem of Syria’s civil war, the global terror group has found a safe haven and a place where it again can recruit, plot and train operatives to carry out attacks on the U.S. homeland.
“There is an effort to exploit them to get them to return to the West,” one official said.
The official, who did not speak for full attribution, described scenarios in which foreign fighters arrive in Syria and are recruited by al Qaeda to train for external attacks.
CNN has spoken to a number of officials who sketched out similar scenarios.
It is not certain how many Americans may have been singled out or if any have been successfully recruited. But another worry is that any Europeans in the mix may be a potential threat as well because they don’t need visas to enter the United States.
Training facilities can change locations and related materials can be found online, minimizing chances that a specific target could be identified and attacked.
Yemeni affiliate in Syria
Another concern is the presence in Syria of fighters and operatives affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is based in Yemen.
Its top bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, is believed to have developed underwear bombs and an explosive hidden in printer cartridges.