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The ISIS Generation in the United States?

June 16, 2016

Could it be that the United States is the land of jihadism? In the aftermaths of the terror attack in a gay bar in Orlando, which left 49 dead and 53 injured, the presence of ISIS on the American soil is in question. Omar Mateen, the author of the attack, was already within the radar of the security services after attracting the attention of federal police in 2014, when he was suspected of possible ties with Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, the first jihadist of American nationality who died in a suicide attack in Syria. His case was far from being an exception.

Until the end of 2015, more than 250 Americans have joined or attempted to join the ranks of ISIS in Syria or in Iraq, according to the estimations of the George Washington University’s programme on extremism, which bases its data on security services. Between 100 and 150 have achieved to join ISIS, and a dozen of them died there while fighting. 900 investigations have been opened throughout fifty American states against the alleged supporters of ISIS, amongst whom 71 were persecuted in November.

Jihadism is not a new phenomenon in the United States. Between 2007 and 2009, two dozens of Americans of Somalian descent joined the ranks of the islamist group Chebab, affiliated with Al-Qaida. However, this network, which was chiefly populated around Minnesota, developed through personal, familiar, and tribal relations. Those Americans of Somalian descent had grown up in the same quarter, attended the same schools, and frequented the same places of prayer. 15 amongst them have also joined ISIS.

The profiles of 71 people, who allegedly support ISIS, have been studied by the researches of the George Washington University. They come from 21 different states, and 40% of them were converted to Islam. The youngest of them was 15 years old, and the oldest, an old pilot of the US Air Force, was 47. The majority is male (86%), but the number of females is increasing.

The details of profiles reveal how ISIS achieves to establish a network of supporters. The Internet plays an important role. A morning of October 2014, three adolescents from the suburb of Denver, two sisters of Somalian descent, aged 15 and 17, and their Sudanese friend of 16 years old, disappeared on their way to the school. They were later intercepted by the German police at the airport of Frankfurt, en route to Syria. Three adolescents, for several months before their departure, had established contact and befriended the activists of ISIS online.

Over twenty-thousand of online ISIS activists are very active on social networks, and a few thousand of those accounts are based in the American territory. For ISIS, its online campaign is a highly symbolic mission for augmenting its base. The chef of FBI, James Comey, expressed his conviction, on June 13, that the murderer of Orlando, Omar Mateen, has also been radicalised online. A little later, President Barack Obama declared that there was no proof that the attack was planned abroad. He claimed that the shooter has likely been inspired by the diverse sources of extremist information on the Internet.

ISIS employs recruiters and tries to inspire the masses for waging a war on the American soil. In December 2015, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farouk, a couple without a political or radical past, killed 14 people in San Bernardino. And on June 13, in Orlando, Omar Mateen carried out the deadliest terrorist attack committed on the American soil since 11 September 2001. It seems like ISIS has already established a network in the United States, and it tries to enlarge its base through online propaganda. Although there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that there is an ISIS generation in the United States, it seems certain that ISIS exploits already existing networks and gets closer to solidifying its base for large attacks.

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