Craig Baxam, 24, is a former U.S. Army soldier and Iraq veteran who has been charged with attempting to assist and join Somalia's radical al-Shabaab terror group. In December, he was arrested by Kenyan authorities after he purportedly tried to cross into Somalia to offer support to the Islamic militants.
The radical group, which is estimated to have 14,000 members, controls a substantial portion of south and central Somalia. As we’ve reported before, al-Shabaab enforces sharia law and has been responsible for beheadings and other forms of torture and murder. The al-Qaeda-linked terror group has vowed to purge Somalia of Christianity, while fighting the "enemies" of Islam.
According to the BBC, after crossing the border, Baxam, who has been extensively trained in cryptology and intelligence, was allegedly attempting to provide the group with hundreds of dollars. Additionally, he was seeking to serve as a fighter for al-Shabaab, according to an affidavit released by US prosecutors.
He had flown to Nairobi, Kenya, from his home in Maryland on December 20 and subsequently attempted to travel to the border by both bus and taxi. Daily Mail has more:
Prosecutors claim Baxam cashed in his retirement savings, about $3,600, and bought a plane ticket to Kenya.
They say he intended to give the outstanding funds - about $600-700 - to al-Shabaab after crossing into Somalia.
Many would likely question Baxam's motivation to support a group that the U.S. has added to its terror roster. According to the affidavit, the ex-soldier converted to Islam in secret after reading Muslim web sites while he was serving in South Korea.
He then became convinced that he wanted to live in a place where Sharia law governed the land. This is where the al-Shabaab and its strict and violent rule came into play. Authorities have quoted him as saying that he would be content to die while defending Islam and that he hoped to perish "with a gun in my hand."
Following his arrest by Kenyan officials, Baxam was detained by U.S. authorities when he arrived back in America on January 6. He is facing up to 15 years as a result of his purported actions.