Craig Baxam, ex-Army intelligence expert, nabbed in bid to join Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia
24-year-old quit military in July, converted to Islam and was later busted on bus in Kenya, documents sayBy Joseph Straw
January 11, 2012
WASHINGTON -- An ex-Army intelligence specialist was caught heading to Somalia to fight and die there with Al Qaeda's regional affiliate, investigators charge.
Craig Baxam, 24, converted to Islam just before leaving the military in July and then quickly radicalized to a jihadist mindset, he told the FBI.
The Laurel, Maryland native was caught late last month on a bus in Kenya "looking for dying with a gun in my hand," according to his arrest affidavit.
Baxam is the latest American to seek out the radical group Al Shabaab in Somalia's decades-long civil war, which has drawn in U.S. special operations forces, plus neighbors Kenya and Ethiopia.
Last year an investigation by staff on the House Homeland Security Committee, led by Chairman Pete King (R-L.I.), found that at least 40 Americans had traveled to join Al Shabaab, many from Minnesota's Somali-American community.
More than half were unaccounted for, and thus posed a high risk of returning home to wage jihad here, King argued.
Baxam, however, told investigators he wanted to live in an area governed by the strict edicts of Islamic Sharia law, such as those imposed by Al Shabaab, and defend them to the death if necessary.
Trained in intelligence and cryptography, Baxam said he converted to Islam shortly before leaving the Army in July when he read about the religion online.
He returned home to Maryland and his appetite for religious doctrine intensified, he said.
Kenyan police picked up Baxam December 23, he said, after a man he spoke to likely alerted police. FBI agents posted to Nairobi questioned him.
Told by the agents that Al Shabaab beats people caught on the streets during daily prayers, Baxam told them "that is awesome."
He is charged with providing material support and resources to a terror group. He appeared Monday before a federal judge in Maryland.