US authorities arrest 56 Daesh-linked suspects in 2015: report
The highest number of Daesh recruits in the US were arrested in New York and Minnesota. (AFP/File)
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The U.S. has arrested more than 50 individuals in 2015 for links to Daesh, according to a report released Tuesday.
George Washington University examined social media accounts and legal documents of Americans who sympathize with the militant group and who are charged with recruiting for the group.
"ISIS and its supporters are adept at using social media to radicalize and recruit Americans,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the school’s Program on Extremism, in a written statement.
"A small number of Americans have whole-heartedly embraced their new-found ISIS support system online. The bar for Americans to join these terrorist organizations has been lowered, allowing a level of connectivity and interaction with recruiters and propagandists unheard of just a few years ago,” according to the report.
The majority of U.S.-based Daesh supporters on Twitter use avatars of black flags, lions and green birds, to symbolize the virtues of martyrdom, it said.
Around 300 U.S.-based Daesh sympathizers spread propaganda for the group and recruit others via social media.
The report on the six-month study highlights how the internet and social media has overhauled radicalization and made it more accessible to more people.
"Some of the most important intelligence is no longer secret," former congresswoman and President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Jane Harman, wrote in the forward to the report.
“Some of the best information is open-source, plastered on message boards or a 19-year-old's Twitter feed. Policymakers have been slow to adapt; spies would still rather squint at satellite photos than scrape Facebook feeds," she added.
More than 7,000 pages of legal documents related to the 71 individuals charged with Daesh-related activities in the U.S. were examined for the study. Individuals differ widely in race, age, social class, education and have different motivations to join the militant group.
The average age for the 71 individuals is 26. More than 50 percent have traveled or attempted to travel abroad, 40 percent allegedly converted to Islam and 14 percent are female, said the report.
Active investigations in all 50 states are being conducted on sympathizers and U.S. law enforcement officials have already made arrests in 21 states.
The arrest of the 56 individuals for Daesh-related activities in 2015, represents the largest number of terrorism arrests in a single year since the deadly 9/11 attacks in 2001, according to the report that also notes that the highest number of Daesh recruits in the U.S. were charged in states of New York and Minnesota.
The UN estimates that more than 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 100 countries have traveled to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya to join Daesh.