The Islamic State terror group’s effort to inspire troubled Americans to extremism is a greater threat to the U.S. than an external attack from Al Qaeda, the FBI director said Wednesday.
FBI Director James Comey told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum that the group, commonly known as ISIS, has influenced a significant number of Americans through a year-long campaign on social media urging Muslims who can’t travel to the Middle East to “kill where you are.”
Twitter handles affiliated with the group have more than 21,000 English-language followers worldwide, Comey said, adding that thousands of those could be U.S. residents.
The FBI has arrested a significant number of people over the last handful of weeks who had been radicalized, Comey said. He also repeated his previous disclosure, without elaborating, that several people were arrested who were planning attacks related to the July Fourth holiday.
Comey said it was too soon to say how Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, the Chattanooga gunman who killed five U.S. troops last week, became radicalized.
Abdulazeez’s relatives have said he had a history of drug use and depression. Comey noted that “the people the Islamic State is trying to reach are people that Al Qaeda would never use as an operative, because they are often unstable, troubled drug users.”
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