A federal grand jury in New York has indicted a U.S. Air Force veteran on charges of attempting to join the self-described Islamic State.
Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh was indicted on two counts, including obstruction of justice, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement, adding he will be arraigned Wednesday.
NPR’s Carrie Johnson tells our Newscast unit that prosecutors say Pugh was born and raised in the U.S., but “turned his back on the country in an attempt to join ISIS,” as the Islamic State is also known.
Pugh, a trained airplane mechanic, allegedly attempted to join the group after being fired from his private sector job.
Carrie says Pugh’s obstruction charge is for allegedly wiping clean several thumb drives. Investigators say they found Pugh had downloaded propaganda videos and searched for Islamic State positions along the Turkish border. He faces up to 35 years in prison.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said Pugh allegedly attempted to travel to Syria in order to join the Islamic State.
“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,” she said.
The Department of Justice says Pugh traveled from Egypt to Turkey on Jan. 10, in an attempt to cross the border into Syria to join ISIS and “fight violent jihad.” Officials say Pugh 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.”
They say that Pugh also had a cellphone that contained, among other things, a photograph of a machine gun.
The Department of Justice says after searching Pugh’s electronic devices, they found recent Internet searches for “borders controlled by Islamic state,” “who controls kobani,” and “Flames of War,” an ISIL propaganda video.
The Washington Post reports that a lawyer for Pugh says he will not plead guilty in court. The Post also says Pugh seems to be a first:
“U.S. officials have said that about 130 Americans have traveled to Syria or tried to do so since the start of the war in that country. Pugh appears to be the first U.S. military veteran known publicly to have traveled to the region to allegedly try to join the Islamic State.”