Former Air Force mechanic Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh has been formally charged for offering material support to ISIS after a failed attempt to go to Syria. Pugh faces 35 years in prison.
Pugh, 47, flew from Egypt to Turkey on January 10th, roughly ten weeks after being fired from his job as an airplane mechanic in Kuwait. He was immediately rejected by Turkish officials based on suspicions that he intended to cross into Syria. Instead of detaining Pugh, they gave him a flight back to Egypt.
CNN reports that, once he was back in Egypt, authorities found damaged thumb drives, an iPod that was wiped clean of data, and a phone with a picture of him holding a machine gun. Justice Department officials say the electronic devices were tampered with in a desperate attempt to conceal evidence.
Egypt sent Tairod Pugh back to the United States with a sealed complaint. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force received warrants for all of his electronic devices and found a treasure-trove of evidence against the would-be jihadist, including a letter to his wife in Egypt that said “I am a (Mujahedeen).”
“I am a sword against the oppressor and a shield for the oppressed. I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic States.”
They also found web searches for border crossing areas from Turkey to Syria and for “Flames of War” an ISIS propaganda film.
According to Newsday, Tairod Pugh was charged in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York. He has reportedly pleaded not guilty.
If the accusations against Pugh are true, he’ll be the first American military veteran to try to sign up for ISIS, according to the Washington Post. Nevertheless, a number of other Americans have attempted to fight for the Islamic State.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, three other men from Brooklyn attempted to join up with ISIS just last month. The men were detained before they could engage in any fighting, but had warned that if they couldn’t make it to Syria they’d take the jihad to the U.S. and attack New York. Like with Pugh, their attempts fell short of doing any real damage.
For Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, the fascination with extremist Islam started in the late 1990s. In 2001, a co-worker told the FBI that Pugh sympathized with Osama Bin Laden and had anti-American views. In 2002, he allegedly expressed interest in fighting jihad in Chechnya.
Even though Tairod Pugh has not admitted he was trying to seek out ISIS in Syria, he did say to a federal agent that “he should have shaved his beard and changed into pants before trying to enter Turkey so as to avoid suspicion.”
U.S. attorney Loretta E. Lynch, and possibly the future attorney general, summed up the charges against the former Air Force vet in a statement.
“Born and raised in the United States, Pugh allegedly turned his back on his country and attempted to travel to Syria in order to join a terrorist organization. We will continue to vigorously prosecute extremists, whether based here or abroad, to stop them before they are able to threaten the United States and its allies.”
The evidence seems firmly stacked against Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, and if the accusations are true, he’s established a difficult precedent for U.S. military veterans.
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