U.S. Air Force Vet Goes to Trial for Trying to Join Islamic State
Tue, March 1, 2016
Tairod Pugh (Photo: Facebook)
An Air Force veteran will become one of the first Americans to be tried for trying to join the Islamic State. The trial of Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh of Neptune, New Jersey will begin March 2.
Pugh faces charges of attempting to provide material support to terrorism and obstruction of justice and faces a maximum prison sentence of 35 years. He is one of 80 Americans arrested in the last year for connections with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Pugh served in the U.S. Air Force from 1986 to 1990 and specialized in aircraft equipment, developing an expertise in engines, navigation systems and weaponry. He moved to San Antonio, Texas in or around 1998 and converted to Islam.
The official complaint against Pugh also states he destroyed evidence of his jihadist aspirations between May 15, 2014 and January 12, 2015.
He was on the FBI’s radar as early as 2001 when one of Pugh's co-workers tipped off the agency about Pugh’s support for al-Qaeda's bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and for Hamas, his sympathy for Osama Bin Laden and his anti-American views.
The FBI received another tip the following year that Pugh said he was hoping to join jihadists in Chechnya, but since this statement was protected under the laws of free speech, there was no action the government could take against him.
The indictment against Pugh indicates his plot to join ISIS began around May 15, 2014. By December, after he was fired from his job as an airline mechanic in Kuwait, he began to actively plan his trip to Syria.
In an email sent to his Egyptian wife, he declared, "I am a mujahid [jihadi warrior]. I am a sword against the oppressor and a shield for the opposed."
He flew from Egypt to Turkey but was denied entry into Syria. His cover story was that he was a pilot in the U.S. Special Forces and was on vacation. The Turks deported him back to Egypt where he began clearing his electronic equipment of incriminating material.
However, the FBI had already received Pugh's uncensored electronic media from the Egyptians in January 2015 and arrested him the day after he arrived back in America.
Meanwhile, in Switzerland this week, a trial of four Swiss-based Iraqis accused of forming a terror cell and plotting a terrorist attack got underway in Bellinzona. The ringleader of the group, identified as Osamah M., is suspected of being a member of ISIS for over 10 years and is thought have spent time in Syria.
Posing as a civilian victim of the Syrian conflict to gain asylum in Switzerland, Osama was nicknamed the “wheelchair bomber” by the Swiss media.
After his own success in entering Switzerland, Osama then arranged asylum for two of the other alleged cell members, both suspected to be members of ISIS who were previously fighting in Damascus.
The fourth suspect was an imam based in Hergiswil, Switzerland. He is accused of travelling to Syria to deliver radio equipment to ISIS contacts.