Eight people from Tajikistan with suspected ties to the Islamic State group have been arrested in the United States in recent days, according to several sources familiar with the matter.

The arrests took place in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and the individuals, who entered the United States through the southern border, are being held on immigration violations, said the sources, who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The nature of their alleged Islamic State connections was unclear at this time, but the individuals were being followed by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF. They were in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which made the arrests in cooperation with the JTTF, pending the initiation of proceedings to remove them from the country.

The individuals from Tajikistan entered the country last spring and passed through the U.S. government’s screening process without any information surfacing that would have identified them as potential terrorists, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a statement confirming the immigration-related arrests of “several non-citizens,” but did not provide specific details. The agencies noted that the United States has been in an “elevated threat environment.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray has stated that the United States faces increasing threats from homegrown violent extremists and foreign terrorist organizations, especially in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

In a recent appearance before Congress, he stated that officials were “concerned about terrorist implications arising from the potential exploitation of vulnerabilities at the border.” The Biden administration stated in August that it had detected and arrested a network attempting to smuggle people into the United States from Uzbekistan, and that at least one member of the network had ties to a foreign terrorist group.

“The FBI and DHS will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to identify, investigate, and disrupt potential national security threats,” the agencies said.

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