A 26-year-old Laurel man was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison after he admitted traveling to Africa to try to join the terrorist group al-Shabab and trashing his home computer so federal investigators could not track him, authorities said.
Craig Baxam was arrested by Kenyan authorities in December 2011, and he soon told FBI agents of his haphazard plan to elude them and connect with al-Shabab because he wanted to live somewhere that rigorously adhered to sharia, or Islamic, law, court papers say. He pleaded guilty to a charge of destroying records that might be used in a terrorism investigation and received the seven-year sentence as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, authorities said.
Federal investigators have long worked to root out so-called homegrown terror suspects, and Special Agent Stephen E. Vogt, who heads the FBI’s Baltimore division, said in a statement that Baxam’s case “highlights the FBI’s highest investigative priority, the prevention of terrorist acts.” But the resolution of the case seems to demonstrate that Baxam did not precisely fit the bill of a would-be terrorist.
Baxam was not convicted of the initial charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, and his attorney, Linda Moreno, said he never advocated specific violence, nor did he procure weapons or attend any terrorist training camps.
A 2005 graduate of Laurel High School who was born in Takoma Park, Baxam had experience in the Army and admitted to investigators that he was willing to commit violence, according to the criminal complaint against him. But he said that he felt offensive jihad was questionable, and his main use for violence would be to defend al-Shabab’s Somali territories from potential invaders, according to the complaint.
Moreno said that the violence he spoke of was only hypothetical, “based on interviews with the FBI where the FBI asked him what if this happened, what if that happened, what if the following.”
“Craig wanted to live and practice his religion in a country where he felt that Muslims were not oppressed,” Moreno said. “This was not a terrorism case.”
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/seven-year-sentence-for-laurel-man-who-tried-to-join-up-with-al-shabaab-terrorist-group/2014/01/13/539c5d8a-7c80-11e3-95c6-0a7aa80874bc_story.html
The Globe and Mail – March 10, 2011
Is Canada doing a better job of integrating Muslims and preventing Islamist extremism from taking root? Canadian officials speak of having done a relatively good job of fighting radicalization. These officials say subtle policy initiatives, including managing immigration flows and reaching out to Muslim communities, can make a huge difference.
Al-Qaeda and its adherents recruit Western acolytes by framing the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as aggression against Islam. Canada was named as a target by Osama bin Laden years ago, but it may be a lesser target today – the Canadian Forces never sent soldiers to Iraq and are now ratcheting down operations in Afghanistan. Whatever gains have been made in the fight against extremism of late, some Europeans, Americans and Canadians continue to flock to terrorist training camps in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia – prompting fears that at least some of their ranks will eventually return to attack the West.
Police raided a hotel where the five American would-be jihadists stayed upon arrival in Pakistan. They recovered a mobile phone and five bags, but no major clues were discovered.
There has been speculation about Pakistan deporting the men, but no plans to send them back the US are currently in place. They cannot be handed over to the FBI without permission of the Lahore High Court.
The Americans attempted to contact a jihad group in Pakistan through the internet, and traveled to the country to train for jihad. They have not been charged.
The FBI has made another arrest in its yearlong investigation into a rash of disappearances from the Somali community in Minnesota.
A 26-year-old medical technician from St. Paul was arrested on Friday and charged with making false statements to FBI officials. His arrest had been under seal until Tuesday, when he appeared in a St. Paul federal court. He was indicted Wednesday on the charges.
An FBI spokesman said that Abdow Abdow’s arrest was related to the ongoing investigation into the two dozen Somali youths who have left the United States and traveled to Somalia to join a militia there called al-Shabab.
The criminal complaint against Abdow says he lied about driving a handful of Somali-Americans from Minneapolis across the country on Oct. 6. One of the young men in the car had his passport and $4,000 in cash. Two other young men who were passengers in Abdow’s car tried to leave the United States through Mexico two days later.
When Abdow was asked about his fellow travelers, he denied they were in the car, the FBI says. When interviewed at work, Abdow allegedly told the FBI, “I’m talking too much.” Then, when he finally admitted having a handful of passengers in his car, he added, “Whatever those guys are into, I’m not.”
U.S. intelligence officials have been following the case out of concern that the Somalis leaving Minneapolis are being funneled to al-Shabab through what might be America’s first jihadi pipeline. Think of the potential pipeline as an underground railroad for jihadists — an intricate but informal network of militants who help their brothers in arms not only travel to terrorist training camps but also return home. The return trip to America is what worries U.S. intelligence. They envision a raft of young men training for jihad and slipping back into the U.S. to launch an attack.
German interior officials said that the inmates from the Guantánamo Bay detention center whom the United States wants Germany to accept could pose a major security risk because they had spent time in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The United States has asked Germany to take 12 Chinese Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority located mostly in western China. The Uighurs have been persecuted by the Chinese authorities, according to human rights organizations, and American officials say they cannot be returned to China because they might be mistreated. But Uwe Schünemann, the conservative interior minister of the state of Lower Saxony, who along with the other 15 regional interior ministers must respond to the U.S. request, said that accepting the detainees was “not without danger.”
“The information we have is that the Uighurs we are being asked to accept were in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and then they were sent to Guantánamo Bay,” Mr. Schünemann said. “We need much more information from the U.S. about these detainees before we are prepared to make any decision.” The regional interior ministers, as well as the federal interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, are scheduled to meet in a closed session Thursday in the north German city of Bremenhaven to discuss the issue. President Barack Obama will visit Germany on Friday. Germany’s reluctance reflects a general lack of enthusiasm across the European Union to accept detainees, even though its members have repeatedly called for Guantánamo to be closed. Mr. Obama, who has vowed to close the prison camp, has struggled to get help from his European allies and has met resistance at home as well. Congressional members of both parties have resisted his plan to relocate detainees to the United States, and Congress recently denied him the funds to shut down Guantánamo. Judy Dempsey reports.