A U.S. Air Force veteran has been charged with trying to enter Syria and join the Islamic State militant group, authorities said Tuesday.
According to a Justice Department statement, a New York grand jury on Monday indicted Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, a former Air Force mechanic, on two charges including attempting to provide material support to a terror organization and obstruction and attempted obstruction of an official proceeding.
“Pugh, an American citizen and former member of our military, allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin said.
According to the Justice Department statement, Pugh had been living overseas for more than a year following his stint in the Air Force, doing work for various companies as an avionics specialist and airplane mechanic.
He was fired from his last job in the Middle East, the Justice Department said, and soon thereafter traveled from Egypt to Turkey in an apparent bid to join the Islamic State in neighboring Syria, but he was turned back by Turkish authorities in early January.
The statement said:
Upon his arrival in Egypt, the defendant was carrying multiple electronic devices, including four USB thumb drives that had been stripped of their plastic casings and an iPod that had been wiped clean of data. The defendant also had a cellular telephone that contained, among other things, a photograph of a machinegun. The defendant was soon thereafter deported to the United States.
American authorities got a search warrant for Pugh's laptop and on Jan. 14 uncovered such evidence as internet searches for “borders controlled by Islamic state,” information on border crossings between Turkey and Syria and Islamic State propaganda, the statement said.
He was charged via secret criminal complaint on Jan. 16 and arrested Jan. 18, ABC News reported.
Pugh is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.
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