October 8, 2015 / 2:51 PM / 3 years ago

Islamic State overtakes al Qaeda as leader of extremist movement: U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Islamic State militant group has overtaken al Qaeda as leader of the global violent extremist movement and has access to a large pool of potential recruits in Western countries, U.S. national counter terrorism center chief Nick Rasmussen said on Thursday.

An Islamic State flag flies over the custom office of Syria's Jarablus border gate as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in Gaziantep province, Turkey August 1, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

In congressional testimony, Rasmussen also said counter terrorism experts still regard al Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate AQAP as big threat due to its interest in attacking the United States and airplanes. In addition, FBI chief James Comey said U.S. investigators are aware of dozens of U.S.-based Islamic militant suspects who now are using encrypted communications.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Bill Trott

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