A U.S. Air Force veteran has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn for attempting to join the Islamic militant group ISIS.
In December 2014, 47-year-old Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, a former Air Force avionics instrument system specialist, was fired from a job as an airplane mechanic in Kuwait. Just weeks later, Pugh traveled from Egypt to Turkey, and allegedly intended to cross the border into Syria to join ISIS to wage violent jihad. Denied entry into Turkey, he was sent him back to Egypt, then deported to the United States.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney and Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch in a statement. “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.”
Pugh’s attorney has said that he will plead not guilty.
An investigation of his computer revealed recent internet searches for “borders controlled by Islamic state”, “who controls kobani”, “kobani border crossing”, and “jarablus border crossing,” further indicating his intent to cross into Syria. He also had downloaded ISIS propaganda videos, including one showing prisoner executions.
When he arrived in Egypt, Pugh had several partially destroyed USB thumb drives and an iPod that had been wiped of data. He has also been charged with obstruction.
Pugh was also carrying two compasses, a solar-powered flashlight, a solar-powered power source, a fatigue jacket and camping clothes.
“United States citizens who offer support to terrorist organizations pose a grave threat to our national security and will face serious consequences for their actions,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez in a statement. “We will continue to work with our partners, both here and abroad, to prevent acts of terrorism. This investigation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement coordination and collaboration here and around the world.”
If convicted, Pugh will face a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison. He will be arraigned on the indictment Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. before Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in Brooklyn.