A top law enforcement official says he is "hyper-concerned" that New Yorkers who return from fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusra or other Islamist groups could threaten his city upon their return.
"If their mindset is to return to American and to engage in terrorist activities, they're likely going to end up in New York," John Miller, the NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence, told the New York Daily News.
Syria has attracted jihadists from all over the world, and Miller says that he believes that New Yorkers have been among them.
The threat to New York may be like nowhere else in America, as evidenced by the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Faisal Shahzad's failed attempt to set off a car bomb in 2010 was the most recent reminder of the jihadists' desire to wreak havoc in the Big Apple.
"I would be hyper-concerned about the people over there from New York City on the presumption they are going to return to New York City," Miller said.
Osama bin Laden used Afghanistan as a safe haven to build terrorist training camps and establish a logistical infrastructure, he said. The breakdown of central governance in Syria and now in Iraq creates similar conditions that Islamic extremists can exploit.
"There's a factory over there in Syria and Iraq that turns out terrorists," Miller said. "The situation in Syria is a cancer and now that has spread to Iraq … They're going over, getting trained, getting radicalized."
U.S. intelligence estimates suggest that about 100 Americans are fighting for jihadist groups in Syria.
Among those include as many as 15 Somali-Americans from Minnesota who have left to fight for ISIS in Syria, but some may now be involved in the fighting in Iraq.
"A Muslim has to stand up for [what's] right," Abdirahmaan Muhumed, one of the Somali-Americans, told Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) through a series of Facebook messages.
FBI officials would not discuss specifics, but told MPR they are investigating the departure of several Somali-Americans for Syria in recent months.
Muhumed said in one Facebook posting that ISIS was "trying to bring back the khilaafa (the Caliphate)" and that "Allah loves those who fight for his cause."