DENVER (AP) – Three teenage girls being investigated for possibly trying to join Islamic State forces in Syria were victims of an “online predator” who encouraged them, a school official said Wednesday. US officials tried to determine how they made it to Europe without anyone knowing and whether the terrorists’ appeal is deepening among vulnerable youth.
The Denver-area girls – two sisters ages 17 and 15, and their 16-year-old friend – were detained at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, and sent home over the weekend. They were interviewed by the FBI and returned to their parents in suburban Aurora. Those in the tight-knit east African community where they live said the sisters are of Somali descent and their friend is of Sudanese descent.
But the episode posed vexing questions for US officials about whether they were recruited, as hundreds of other youth have been inside and outside the US, and what can be done about it.
“Social media has played a very significant role in the recruitment of young people,” said FBI spokesman Kyle Loven in Minneapolis, home to the largest Somali community in the US Authorities there have been concerned about terror recruiting of the young for years.