The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is tracking Uzbek nationals who sought asylum in the United States earlier this year after intelligence officials discovered that they traveled to the southern border with assistance from a smuggler with ties to the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS), according to the U.S. National Security Council.
Officials were working to “identify and assess” the individuals who obtained entry into the homeland, NSC spokesman Adrienne Watson said.
“While the FBI has not identified a specific terrorism plot associated with foreign nationals who recently entered the U.S. at the southern border, we always work with our field offices across the country, as well as our domestic and international partners, to identify any potential illegal activity or terrorism threats,” the FBI told The Foreign Desk.
U.S. officials stressed they are looking at several migrants as possible criminal threats. Authorities say there are no specific ISIS plans that have been identified.
“There was no indication and remains no indication that any of the individuals facilitated by this network have a connection to a foreign terrorist organization or are engaged in plotting a terrorist attack in the U.S.,” Watson said.
According to reports, U.S. authorities said the migrants requested asylum at the U.S. southern border with Mexico in 2023 and were screened by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Officials say nothing in the U.S. intelligence community’s databases revealed any red flags, and they were released into the homeland pending legal proceedings.
“As always, we ask anyone with information about federal crimes or threats to public safety to report it to the FBI,” an FBI spokesperson told The Foreign Desk. “Whenever we have indicators that criminal actors—such as those involved in human smuggling—have connections to terrorism, we work diligently with our partners to investigate and understand how foreign terrorist organizations may attempt to exploit their capabilities so that we can best mitigate any risk to the American public,” the official added.
The FBI learned about the smuggling network later, discovering that it was helping Uzbeks in the homeland, with one individual having ties to ISIS. The FBI has begun a nationwide search for the migrants, working with Turkish officials, who arrested the smuggler and other members of the illegal network.
“The DHS and our intelligence, counterterrorism, and law enforcement partners screen and vet individuals prior to their entry to the U.S. to prevent anyone known to pose a threat from entering the country. DHS continually monitors all available sources of intelligence and information related to potential threats and if any new information emerges, we work closely with the FBI and other partners to take appropriate action,” a DHS official told The Foreign Desk.
According to Watson, the ISIS-linked smuggler is not believed to be a member of the jihadist organization and is an independent contractor with strong sympathies for the organization.
The FBI told The Foreign Desk that U.S. officials “continue working side-by-side with our intelligence and law enforcement partners to investigate any individuals with suspected ties to foreign terrorist organizations who may pose a threat to Americans, regardless of how they arrive in the U.S.”
U.S. intelligence officials say the smuggler most likely did not assist the migrants on orders from ISIS. The smuggled Uzbeks who have come into the homeland have not been located, and those tracked by the FBI are undergoing strict scrutiny as potential criminal threats.