WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is launching a series of pilot programs in cities around the country to deal with American extremists intent on joining the fighting in countries like Syria and Iraq, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.
The programs are designed in part to detect American extremists who are looking to join terror organizations, including the Islamic State militant group, and will bring together religious leaders, prosecutors and community representatives.
“Today, few threats are more urgent than the threat posed by violent extremism. And with the emergence of groups like ISIL, and the knowledge that some Americans are attempting to travel to countries like Syria and Iraq to take part in ongoing conflicts, the Justice Department is responding appropriately,” Holder said in a video message Monday, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
The Justice Department did not immediately reveal which cities will be part of the pilot programs.
The White House, meanwhile, is scheduled to host a summit next month on the topic of countering violent extremists.
American law enforcement and intelligence officials have for months expressed concerns about Westerners who have traveled to Syria to take part in the fighting there. Last week, a 19-year-old Colorado woman pleaded guilty to trying to help the Islamic State group. Her plea deal requires her to give authorities information about other Americans with the same intentions.
Other countries have proposed or taken actions to deal with the problem of foreign fighters.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed new laws that would give police the power to seize the passports of Britons suspected of having traveled abroad to fight with terrorist groups. And German authorities recently banned all activity on behalf of the Islamic State group, including the distribution of propaganda material and the display of its symbols.