Update - 11/22/13: An English language video glorifying Islamist rebel groups in Syria and apparently featuring an American was released earlier this month by The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an Al Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday said that “dozens” of Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to fight against the Assad regime.
ADL released a report in June highlighting the increasing numbers of American citizens drawn to the conflict in Syria and joining terrorist groups. As noted in the report, since 2007, over 50 American citizens and permanent residents have been charged in connection with attempts to join terrorist groups abroad, including Al Shabaab in Somalia and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, as well as Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.
Details of six cases in which Americans joined or attempted to join the conflict in Syria have been made public in 2013. Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen of California, Amir Farouk Ibrahim of Pennsylvania, and Nicole Mansfield of Michigan all successfully joined the conflict. Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Illinois and Basit Javed Sheikh of North Carolina attempted to join but were arrested en route. In addition, Eric Harroun of Arizona pleaded guilty to non-terror-related charges in September, 2013, and was sentenced to time served. That Harroun fought in Syria is uncontested; however, reports differ as to whether he fought with Jabhat al Nusra.
The number of Americans attempting to travel abroad to train and fight with terrorist groups continues to raise serious concerns about extremists using their American passports to return to the U.S. in order to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.
Syrian rebel groups, including the Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have created social media space and propaganda to raise awareness, support and potential recruits for their cause in the English-speaking world. These include the exploitation of Facebook, blogs, Twitter and other platforms.