Washington (CNN)Support for ISIS in America has reached an unprecedented level with several thousand U.S.-based sympathizers and more terrorism-related arrests in 2015 than any year since 9/11, according to a report by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.
The report noted that the average ISIS recruit is male and around 26 years old. It identified at least 300 Americans who actively support ISIS on social media and spread propaganda on the terror group’s behalf, with Twitter being the preferred platform. In addition to those supporters, the FBI has previously said that they also have 900 open investigations into homegrown violent extremists, a majority being ISIS related.
Following the attack on Paris by ISIS which left 130 dead, the FBI honed in on 100 of those 900 investigations and took “them up a notch,” according to FBI Director James Comey. The hardest task for federal law enforcement tracking these threats is prioritizing those they think are actually at risk of carrying out similar attacks over those that only consume the propaganda.
And while the U.S. only saw 15 arrests for ISIS related activities in 2014 that number has more than tripled with at least 56 people being charged in the U.S. so far in 2015.
Of those 71 total individuals arrested for their involvement or interest in joining ISIS since the terror group’s rise to prominence in early 2014, the vast majority of them were U.S. citizens or permanent residents, with the youngest suspect being 15. Their crimes ran the spectrum from the spreading of propaganda to actively seeking out weapons and co-conspirators to carry out an attack within the U.S.
The breakdown of those arrested with ISIS related crimes also gives a glimpse into the motive behind those supporters, with only 27% plotting to carry out an attack in America and more than half traveling or attempting to travel abroad to join ISIS in Syria or Iraq.
Though the FBI believes that the trend of foreign fighters from the U.S. to Syria and Iraq is on the decline, it has been previously estimated by U.S. officials that more than 250 Americans have traveled to join ISIS with only a few dozen actually joining the ranks and about 20 have died fighting.