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US General Warns of Threat from IS Recruits in W. Hemisphere


FILE - U.S. Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, says about 100 Islamist militant recruits have left the Caribbean and South America to train and fight in Syria.

FILE - U.S. Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, says about 100 Islamist militant recruits have left the Caribbean and South America to train and fight in Syria.

The top U.S. general in South America is warning lawmakers on Capitol Hill of areas of weakness where Islamic State fighters could attempt to infiltrate the Western Hemisphere.

"There’s a lot of people coming and going," General John Kelly told VOA, "and it only takes one to cause you problems.”

Kelly said that about 100 Islamist militant recruits have left the Caribbean and South America to train and fight in Syria.

“I would suspect they’ll get good at, while they’re in Syria, get good at killing and pick up some real job skills in terms of explosives and beheadings and things like that," he said. "And everyone’s concerned, of course, if they come home.”

Home for this handful of fighters falls in the U.S. geographic sphere of influence. They hail from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Venezuela.

“A hundred certainly doesn’t seem like a lot, and it’s not," Kelly said. "But the little countries that they come from with a total inability to really deal with it, that’s kind of what their concern is. So we’re watching.”

Kelly said that if the recruits returned to their home nations, they could potentially come up through cross-border networks to get to the U.S., though military officials have seen no signs of any such scheme.

So how can the U.S. handle the potential return of would-be terrorists? Kelly said the keys were good cooperation with countries in the region and a strong U.S. law enforcement and intelligence service to track terror network movements.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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