ISIS links: US 'nabs nearly 60 this year'

A police officer standing guard at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Nov 17.
A police officer standing guard at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Nov 17. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • The authorities have arrested nearly five dozen people in the US this year for helping to support or plot with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a new study, the largest number of terrorism-related arrests in the country in a single year since September 2001.

The ISIS recruits defy any single profile, the study found, although they are younger than previous terrorism suspects, draw heavily on converts to Islam and reflect increasingly prominent roles for women in the terrorist organisation.

A demographic snapshot of the 71 individuals arrested on charges related to ISIS since March last year, including 56 this year, emerged from a comprehensive review of social media accounts and legal documents of nearly 400 US sympathisers of the terror group conducted by researchers at George Washington University.

The report, titled ISIS In America: From Retweets To Raqqa, was made public on Tuesday. The people in the George Washington University study ranged from a 15-year-old boy to Tairod Pugh, a former Air Force officer who was 47 at the time of his arrest.

The average age of the American supporter of ISIS was 26, the report found, reflecting a pattern unfolding in other Western countries as social media attracts younger recruits.

Mr John P. Carlin, assistant attorney-general for national security, has said that of the terrorism-related arrests in the past 18 months, mostly involving ISIS, 80 per cent of those arrested were younger than 30, and 40 per cent were younger than 21.

According to the study, about 14 per cent of those arrested were women, and the vast majority were American citizens or permanent residents, emphasising the home-grown threat the authorities are combating, compared with foreigners infiltrating the country.

Some 40 per cent of those arrested were converts to Islam, a larger representation among US supporters of ISIS than the 23 per cent of American Muslims overall who are converts, according to the study.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'ISIS links: US 'nabs nearly 60 this year''. Print Edition | Subscribe