Just one day after the ISIS terror attack in Brussels, which left more than 30 people dead Tuesday, the Associated Press is reporting chilling details about the number of fighters the terror army has trained to attack Europe in bloody, terrifying waves. Intelligence officials have addressed grave concern these types of attacks are nearly impossible to prevent.
The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum carnage, The Associated Press has learned.
The network of agile and semiautonomous cells shows the reach of the extremist group in Europe even as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq. The officials, including European and Iraqi intelligence officials and a French lawmaker who follows the jihadi networks, described camps in Syria, Iraq and possibly the former Soviet bloc where attackers are trained to attack the West. Before being killed in a police raid, the ringleader of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed to have entered Europe in a multinational group of 90 fighters, who scattered "more or less everywhere."
Estimates range from 400 to 600 Islamic State fighters trained specifically for external attacks, according to the officials. Some 5,000 Europeans have gone to Syria.
In light of the Brussels attack, it's important to emphasize that the ISIS terrorists who carried it out didn't get to the city from Syria or Iraq, but were in fact born and highly-educated there. The bomb maker who constructed suicide belts detonated in the Paris attacks last November, held a degree in mechanical engineering and was born in the Brussels, not in a far away and foreign terror hot spot of the Middle East. He's likely the same person who made the suicide belts for the Brussels attack.
A senior Iraqi intelligence official who was not authorized to speak publicly said people from the cell that carried out the Paris attacks are scattered across Germany, Britain, Italy, Denmark and Sweden. Recently, a new group crossed in from Turkey, the official said.
The latest new name to surface this week, Najim Laachraoui, turned out to be a Brussels resident with a degree in mechanical engineering — the bombmaker who made the suicide vests used in the Paris attacks, according to French and Belgian officials. Attackers used an explosive known as Triacetone Triperoxide, or TATP, made from common household chemicals.
Fifteen kilos of TATP were found in an apartment linked to the Brussels attackers, along with other explosive material, although Laachraoui has not been publicly linked to the latest attack.
According to intelligence estimates, more than 5000 Europeans have left for Iraq and Syria as ISIS continues its march. Closer to home, the State Department came under fire last year after it was revealed the passports of Americans who have joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria were not revoked. Today, nothing has changed.
The FBI confirmed last fall it is investigating more than 1000 ISIS leads inside the U.S. and at a hearing in January, directors of a number of U.S. intelligence agencies expressed concern ISIS will attack inside the country within the year.
Top U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that ISIS was likely to attempt direct attacks on the U.S. in the coming year and that the group was infiltrating refugees escaping from Iraq and Syria to move across borders.
ISIS "will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016," Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
On a final note, the Obama administration has been purposely downplaying the ISIS threat for years, which came to a head last year when whistleblowers revealed to the Daily Beast intelligence reports were being scrubbed to fit the White House narrative that ISIS was under control and simply a jay-vee team operating in the deserted deserts of Iraq and Syria.