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.”
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.