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400 Migrants Smuggled Into US By ISIS-Affiliated Network: DHS

A new report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security identified more than 400 migrants from Central Asia and elsewhere as “subjects of concern” as they were brought to the United States through an ISIS-affiliated human smuggling network, three U.S. officials confirmed to NBC News on Tuesday (June 25).

More than 150 of the migrants were arrested, however, the whereabouts of more than 50 others are unknown as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeks to arrest them on immigration charges, officials confirmed.

“In this case, it was the information that suggested a potential tie to ISIS because of some of the individuals involved in [smuggling migrants to the border] that led us to want to take extra care and out of an abundance of caution make sure that we exercised our authority in the most expansive and appropriate way to mitigate risk because of this potential connection being made,” a senior Biden administration official told NBC News.

The official claimed that ICE began arresting migrants brought to the U.S. through the ISIS-affiliated smuggling group several months ago and there is no current information of the migrants having posed as a threat to the U.S. Many of the 400 migrants identified were released into the U.S. by Customs and Border Protections because they weren’t listed on the government’s terrorism watchlist and the agency didn’t suspect any concerns at the time, the three officials confirmed.

Recent terrorist attacks in Russia have heightened concern about ISIS’ potential presence in the U.S. as the DHS has investigated migrants from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Russia, all countries where ISIS-K has been active.

“The fact that the whereabouts were unknown is clearly alarming,” said former FBI counterterrorism section chief Christopher O’Leary, who currently works at security consulting firm The Soufan Group, via NBC News.

O’Leary confirmed that ICE intends to arrests the remaining individuals at large as they may pose a threat to national security, even if there’s no evidence of them plotting an attack.

“I believe the [U.S.] is scrambling to locate these individuals, and using the immigration charges is not uncommon,” O’Leary added. “They are in violation of that law. And if you need to take somebody off the street, that’s a good approach to do it.”

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