INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 17, 2014)-- The terrorist group ISIS has already hit home here in Indiana with the death of Abdul Rahman-Kassig.
The Indianapolis native’s execution was announced over the weekend. Just last month, the FBI issued a warning about ISIS recruiting woman and children online in this country and in others. It’s sparked a debate over the real and perceived threat here in central Indiana.
"We do see people being radicalized on the internet quite often. It’s as simple as social media grabbing a hold of someone and changing their beliefs,” said Gary Coons, Director of Homeland Security for the City of Indianapolis.
"Kim Kardashian has had more boyfriends than people have joined Isis from the U.S.,” counters Hazem Bata, Executive Director of the Islamic Society of North America.
At the Regional Operation Center (ROC), someone is always watching. Officers look for crime as it happens and anything that’s out of the ordinary - anything that’s a potential threat. The people who run the center say it’s naive to think it couldn't happen here.
"Look at the attacks that have occurred across the United States and in cities where you never thought would have occurred," said Coons.
Peter Beering wrote a terrorism response plan for the City of Indianapolis in the early 2000’s. He says central Indiana is no different than any other Midwest city that’s seen the kind of economic upheaval that’s left many disaffected and potentially vulnerable to any extremist group.
"We've got a lot of people who've been marginalized, economically, socially, employment-wise that are potentially interested in affiliating with someone who show another way out," said Beering.
The potential threat of terrorism is an emotionally charged topic at the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield. Leaders here say for some in Indiana, Muslims come under suspicion solely based on how they dress or how they worship.
"Just as its unfair to paint all Christians as being bigoted or racist because of what the KKK does. It's equally unfair to paint all Muslims as terrorists because of the actions of Al-Quada or Isis," said Bata.
Experts say it’s difficult to quantify the terror threat in Indiana or anywhere else. What’s more certain they say, is what’s at stake.
"Those individuals that carry our an attack take way the freedom of those living in this great country, " said Coons.
Check out the interactive map below to see Americans and U.S. residents who allegedly sought to join the Islamist cause in Iraq and Syria: