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The concern has grown more acute with the beheading of American journalist James Foley by a militant dressed in black with a British accent. The Islamic State group, now regarded by Western authorities as the most brutal among jihadi organizations, claimed responsibility last week by posting a video of the slaying on the Internet.
WHAT ARE OTHER GOVERNMENTS DOING?
France is planning a law that would allow confiscation of passports for citizens suspected of planning to fight in Syria or Iraq, and allow prosecution of people who attempt to join the fighting or who are returning from it. Britain, with an estimated 400 to 500 citizens having fought in Syria, has emphasized outreach aimed at stopping radicalization. So has Germany.
WHAT MOTIVATES THE TRAVELERS?
Those who are lured to the fighting tend to be young men from 18 to 30 who are disenfranchised from society and withdrawn, Loven said. They can include people who have been born into the Muslim faith and converts to Islam. McCain's Twitter feed included a May 14 post that said he "reverted to Islam 10 years ago" and called it the best thing to happen to him.
Colin Clarke, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation who researches global security, said the travelers also sometimes include people who have sketchy backgrounds or have been in trouble with the law.
"These are individuals that are seeking a sense of belonging. They are seeking a higher purpose," Clarke said. "They believe that by traveling to fight with a group like ISIS they will be able to achieve martyrdom."
WHAT MAKES ISIL ATTRACTIVE TO THEM?
ISIL appeals to jihadists around the globe because it's seen as a successful movement, and unlike al-Qaida, it is operating above-ground, said Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas.
Kohlmann said the fighters are sympathetic to the forces opposing the Assad regime, and have embraced the anti-American message.
"They want to become Batman," he said. "I hate stay it like that, but they have this illusion they're going to become a superhero — defend the rights of the innocent and oppressed. It sounds really good."
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