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ISIS' American recruitment on decline, FBI director says

WASHINGTON - FBI Director James Comey says fewer Americans are traveling to fight alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS.)

He says the group's influence in the United States appears to be on the decline. Comey told reporters at a roundtable discussion Wednesday that the number of Americans who have gone or have tried to join the group has dropped to about one per month. It used to be a half-dozen or more a month.

He said there's "no doubt" that something has happened to diminish the attractiveness of ISIS to Americans.

Comey said the FBI has "north of 1,000" cases in which agents are trying to evaluate a subject's level of radicalization and potential for violence.

Comey said last month that the number of people attempting to leave the U.S. to join ISIS has been down for nine months, and that it appeared to be a general downward trend.

Comey said there are a few reasons -- in addition to the group's mounting battlefield losses -- that this is likely: the aura and fad that came with the group has faded; prison sentences for supporters and members are piling up; and people are realizing how hellish it is to live in ISIS territory.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS,, said earlier this year the extremists' ranks of foreign fighters have dropped to about 25,000 from a peak of 35,000.

The extremist group is under constant pressure and has cut fighters' salaries by about half.

The group -- which once bragged about minting its own currency -- is having trouble meeting expenses, thanks to coalition airstrikes and other measures that have eroded millions of dollars from its finances since last fall. Last year both the U.S.-led coalition, as well as Russian fighters, began targeting their oil production capabilities and cash stores.

Those circumstances include the dramatic drop in global prices for oil - once a key source of income. Additionally, the targeted airstrikes have dramatically reduced cash stockpiles and oil infrastructure. And the Iraqi government has stopped paying civil servants in territory controlled by the extremists.

In addition to targeting their image as a cash-rich group, the U.S.-led coalition has also targeted ISIS' slick online propaganda machine.