The FBI is investigating asylum-seekers who entered the U.S. after help from a smuggler with ties to ISIS

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are investigating a group of Uzbek nationals who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and claimed asylum in the U.S. this year after new intelligence found they were assisted by a human trafficker with connections to a U.S.-designated “foreign terrorist organization,” federal officials have confirmed to NBC News.

The smuggling network was based in Turkey, and the person who helped bring the Uzbeks into the U.S. had loose ties to the Islamic State terrorist group, better known as ISIS, according to officials who had seen the intelligence reports.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement Tuesday, “However, 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 United States.”

CNN first reported the investigation.

The FBI has been trying to locate about 15 of the approximately 120 Uzbek migrants who entered the U.S. using the Turkey-based smuggling network, officials said.

An FBI spokesperson said the agency “has not identified a specific terrorism plot associated with foreign nationals who recently entered the United States at the southern border.”

According to Department of Homeland Security officials, the Uzbek migrants all went through routine screening by Customs and Border Protection agents when they entered the U.S., and there was no intelligence in any of the government’s terrorist databases that indicated any of them presented a threat. They were subsequently released into the U.S. pending their court dates.

Once the intelligence was received after the fact, the FBI worked to locate the migrants and recheck their backgrounds. Law enforcement officials said that the FBI worked with Turkish law enforcement and that police there arrested the smuggler.

Officials told NBC News that at most the smuggler sympathized with ISIS and did not help the migrants for any terrorism purposes. Nonetheless, the FBI is still looking for some of the migrants.

A senior law enforcement official said Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection have instituted new targeting rules at the border to vet any other migrants associated with the network who are still trying to cross the border.

“Since this information became available, those encountered at the border who fit the profile associated with individuals who were facilitated by this network are being placed into expedited removal, being thoroughly vetted against national security and public safety systems, and generally detained pending removal,” said Watson of the National Security Council.

In addition, officials in so-called transit countries and airports have been put on alert.

In terms of the larger intelligence community, officials argued that the case shows that the system is working and that it functioned as intended.

DHS also stressed that there have not been any degradation or lapses in screening at the border due to the number of people coming in from Mexico.

source: nbcnews.com