United States intelligence has identified at least 50 American citizens fighting alongside Islamic extremists in Syria to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. According to the LA Times, officials are concerned that they may present a threat to America upon their return from the Syrian Civil War.
The LA Times reports that an official gave them the “50 Americans” estimate off the record, the first concrete estimate of its kind. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had officially announced Tuesday that about 7,500 foreign fighters were estimated to be operating in Syria. Speaking to the House Intelligence Committee, Clapper emphasized the safety concern that those radicalized in Syria would return to their native countries hoping to wage jihad.
Along with Clapper’s report, CIA Director John Brennan also announced the looming threat of Al Qaeda in the region. Having stationed themselves in Syria and Iraq, Al Qaeda-identified elements have established training camps there for those wishing to fight in the Syrian Civil War.
These are not the first reports of foreigners leaving Western nations to wage war in Syria. The United Kingdom estimated last December that 300 citizens of that nation had flocked to Syria. The Telegraph report revealing this number also estimated 200 Australians, 200 Germans, and an array of citizens from other European countries were currently active in Syria. The Europeans fighting in Syria are believed to be mostly Muslims attracted to the war front as a way to wage jihad and remove Assad from power, replacing him with an Islamist leader.
The Times of London reported that four Britons have been confirmed dead fighting in Syria. The threat of radicalized militiamen returning to the UK freely as citizens has caused such a stir that senior police officials are vowing to arrest anyone returning to the UK from Syria.