US Airstrikes Boost IS, More Hostages Possible

US Airstrikes Boost IS,  More Hostages PossibleUS Airstrikes Boost IS,  More Hostages Possible

Support for Islamic State increased after US airstrikes 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.

Islamic State 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.

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

Islamic State 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,” Reuters quoted Comey as saying.

Islamic State draws an estimated $1 million 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 inSyria, who may return to their countries “battle-hardened, radicalized and determined to attack us,” Olsen, the top U.S. counterterrorism official, said in prepared testimony.