The House Homeland Security Committee chairman said it’s known that 40 to 50 Americans have gone over to Africa to join what they call “the fight” with Al-Shabaab.
“Certainly, it’s very plausible that three of them could have been Americans,” Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) told CNN of the terror group’s claim about its fighters in Nairobi’s Westgate mall.
Of those 50 Americans, “the idea that they could come back into the United States is a real valid concern,” he added.
“And we’ve been tracking this for several years to try to get the identifying travel information, to ensure that these Americans don’t come back into the United States, and if they do, they’ll get picked up immediately at our airports,” McCaul said. “And so we’ve had several successful cases with the FBI recently, within the last year, picking up Al-Shabaab members in the United States who have actively tried to recruit and train in the United States and then send them overseas to Kenya and Somalia.”
The big concern is Americans over there not being tracked by the U.S. government.
“Now, they are going over there to fight the fight for Somalia for the Al-Shabaab movement. But the idea of that being — coming back into the United States is a very real threat that we have to prepare ourselves for. And I think, obviously, federal law enforcement and Homeland Security, we’re working very hard on this, to make sure that they don’t come back in the United States,” McCaul said.
Former Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said over the weekend that Al-Shabaab should be singled out as the only terrorist group actively recruiting Americans, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) disagreed.
“I think there are other Al Qaida affiliates at — do you remember the Times Square bomber? He was trained by the Pakistani Taliban. He went — that guy went to Pakistan, received training, came back here and tried to blow Times Square up. Thank God the car didn’t explode. But that was done by the Pakistani Taliban. The Detroit guy was done by another group,” Graham said on Fox yesterday.
“So there are more than one group trying to get Americans to turn against us at home and go overseas and fight. And we’re ignoring this. We’re letting our defenses down at a time when we need them the most.”
King held two hearings during his tenure as chairman focusing on Al-Shabaab’s activities in St. Paul, Minn.
“Of that 40 to 50 who have gone over to be trained, we think at least 15 of them have been killed in fighting over in Somalia. The concern, as we’ve said before, is that any of these coming back into the United States would be in contact with operatives in the United States,” the congressman said on CNN yesterday.
Testimony at those hearings included a father whose son went to Somalia and wanted to come back to the U.S. before he was killed in Al-Shabaab fighting.
“And the father was telling us how difficult it was to get the support in the community that he wanted, that actually people in the mosque were intimidated, told him not to cooperate with the police or FBI,” King said.
“The overwhelming majority of them are outstanding people, but there definitely is this element and the question — it was only recently the State Department even agreed to declare Al-Shabaab a terrorist organization. They were maintaining for a number of years that it was just confined to a civil war situation in Somalia, but as we see these are terrorists who go beyond their borders and this attack in Kenya was extremely sophisticated, probably the most sophisticated of this type of attack since Mumbai.”