Concessions, FBI warns ISIS may take more hostages in order to force US

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דאעשFBI director James Comey, Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson and National Counterterrorism Center director Matthew Olsen testify before the House. Photograph: Chip

Support for Islamic State (Isis) increased after US air strikes began in Iraq and the militant group may take more hostages to try to force concessions from Washington, the FBI director told Congress on Wednesday.

ISIS is “committed to instilling fear and attracting recruits” and to drawing public attention, as shown through its use of social media and in videos it released of the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, said FBI director James Comey.

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“ISIL’s widespread use of social media and growing online support intensified following the commencement of US air strikes in Iraq,” Comey, using another acronym for the group, said in prepared testimony for a congressional hearing on threats to the US homeland.

ISIS and other outfits “may continue to try to capture American hostages in an attempt to force the US government and people into making concessions that would only strengthen Isil and further its terrorist operations,” Comey said.

ISIS draws an estimated $1m per day from black market oil sales, smuggling, robberies, and ransom payments for hostages, according to Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

The United States and United Kingdom, unlike some European nations, do not pay ransom for the release of hostages.

The group’s ability to attack the US homeland relies in part on its widespread and sophisticated use of social media to radicalize Americans, the national security officials told the House of Representatives homeland security committee.

The group used these tools as it drew recruits from more than 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria, who may return to their countries “battle-hardened, radicalized and determined to attack us”, Olsen, the top US counter-terrorism official, said in prepared testimony.