FBI: 12 US citizens fighting in Syria, not 100

2014-09-26 10:44
Fighters from the al-qaeda linked Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. (Raqqa media centre, AP)

Fighters from the al-qaeda linked Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. (Raqqa media centre, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The US believes there are about 12 Americans fighting alongside extremist groups in Syria, not more than 100, that has been cited for months.

That's not to say there is no concern about these other 88 or so Americans who officials say have been killed, arrested, travelled or attempted to travel to join the fight. But the US only knows of about 12 who are currently in Syria fighting, FBI Director James Comey said on Thursday.

The 100 figure, however, had taken on an urban legend status over the past few months as the Obama administration made its case to the American public for military action in Iraq and Syria.

It's unclear what significance the discrepancy has as far as Americans' support for the US military action, which so far has been strong.

"When I use a number of more than 100 that means people who have gone and come back, people who have attempted to go and we locked them up, people who have gone and stayed", Comey said during an interview with reporters at FBI headquarters. "The figure that I've been operating with is, ballparkish, a dozen still there fighting with terrorist groups."

But that breakdown has been absent from other Obama administration accounts.


"Thousands of foreign fighters have flocked to Syria over the past three years," Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said last week. "This includes more than 2 000 Europeans and more than a hundred Americans."

The head of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican representative Michael McCaul, described it this way: "Coupled with 30 000 of these ISIS fighters, 15 000 are foreign fighters, over 100 American US citizens. Many of these fighters have Western passports." He was using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group.

The senior Republican on the senate armed services committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, told defense secretary Chuck Hagel during a hearing, "It's estimated that at least 2 000 fighters hold Western passports and at least 100 are US citizens." Hagel never corrected him or clarified the 100 figure.

In June, Comey also cited the 100 figure during interviews with reporters at the FBI's Minneapolis field office.

"The 100 or so people that we are tracking, who have travelled, gone and stayed, gone and come back, are from everywhere in the United States, from all walks of life, making it enormously challenging for us", Comey said.

But Comey's explanation was a mouthful, and it's been short-handed into what is now known to be an exaggerated number of Americans fighting in Syria.

While Olsen didn't specifically say that 100 Americans are currently fighting with extremists in Syria, it has been interpreted that way.

"This figure includes well over 1 000 European citizens, and more than 100 Americans", William Keating said last week. Keating said he was citing figures provided by the national counterterrorism centre.

Read more on:    fbi  |  isis  |  chuck hagel  |  syria  |  us  |  syria conflict

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.