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Sen. Joni Ernst: Islamic State ‘Growing More Overt in Latin America’

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), as it loses territory in the Middle East, is infiltrating Latin America, warns Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) in a letter sent to President Barack Obama this week.

Sen. Ernst is urging President Obama to take action.

Obama is heading to Peru today for his last Asia-Pacific trade summit as U.S. president.

Breitbart News, citing U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and other sources, has repeatedly reported that ISIS and other jihadist groups, namely Iran’s narco-terror proxy Hezbollah, maintain a presence in Latin America. SOUTHCOM is in charge of U.S. military activity in the region.

In the November 14 letter sent to President Obama ahead of his visit to Peru, Sen. Ernst wrote:

ISIS and its sympathizers are growing more overt in Latin America. Their increased use of messaging in Spanish and Portuguese, coupled with calls for terror in the region, exemplify ISIS’s unwavering determination to change and imbed in new surroundings… I echo the message from your SOUTHCOM Commander, and his predecessor, who have raised concerns about the growth of extremism in Latin America and urge you to make this issue a top priority for your travel this month.

With decades of violence and illicit activity throughout Latin America, it remains fertile ground for extremist groups…With ISIS setting its sights on global expansion, and a history of Islamic extremism in the region, we cannot afford to continue turning a blind eye to these threats emerging right here in our own hemisphere.

In its most recent assessment of terrorist activity across the globe, President Obama’s State Department acknowledged the presence of the Sunni jihadist group ISIS and Lebanese based Shiite organization Hezbollah in Latin America.

Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pointed out that the Brazilian Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Khilafa Brazil, which has reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS, “will likely not be the last, and the increasing rise of ISIS fighters leaving the Caribbean should indicate to you that this is not a narrowly focused problem.”

A Breitbart News analysis of U.S. government data found that amid Islamic radicalization concerns in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Muslim population in the region has grown about 25 percent to an estimated three million since 2010. 

Sen. Ernst also wrote to Obama:

It should be clear to you by now that I do not support your measuring of our success against ISIS by the land they lose in the Middle East, as 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…

The Sunni terrorist group has declared that despite losing territory in the Middle East, it will continue to exist as a jihadist group. 

In the letter, the Iowa Republican urged the president to consider the following during his visit to America’s backyard:

  1. Panama, who lacks a standard military, is the only country in the region to join the U.S.-led Coalition to Counter ISIS. How can you encourage more Latin American countries to join the coalition?
  2. SOUTHCOM has, and is able to, conduct counter terrorism. What U.S. missions in Latin America can you increase or refocus to ensure we are interrupting and halting any growth of ISIS?
  3. New anti-terrorism laws were cited as being a key component for stopping terrorist attacks from being carried out at the Olympic Games in Brazil. What steps are you taking to urge more anti-terrorism cooperation and expand existing U.S. counter crime and security assistance to incorporate counter terrorism efforts?

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