A U.S. Air Force Veteran has been charged with attempting to join the Islamic State, the terrorist group also referred to as ISIS or ISIL. According to a Tuesday release from the Department of Justice, Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, an American citizen and a former avionics instrument system specialist in the Air Force, tried to join the Islamic State after being fired from a job as an airplane mechanic based in the Middle East earlier this year. The DOJ said Pugh tried to enter Syria in January by traveling from Egypt to Turkey and attempting to cross the border:
Turkish authorities denied the defendant entry, however, and sent him on a return flight to Egypt. Upon his arrival in Egypt, the defendant 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. The defendant also had a cellular telephone that contained, among other things, a photograph of a machinegun. The defendant was soon thereafter 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,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said 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, 47, first came to the attention of federal authorities in 2001, when a co-worker at American Airlines told the FBI that Pugh “sympathized with Osama bin Laden, felt that the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies overseas were justified, and expressed anti-American sentiment,” according to an affidavit by a FBI agent unsealed on Tuesday. Authorities interviewed an associate in 2002, but the FBI complaint doesn’t mention any activity until 2014, when he was listed as a crew member on an outbound flight headed to Bahrain, according to the complaint.
Pugh will be arraigned on the indictment Wednesday at 11 a.m. CNN reports Pugh’s attorney says he will plead not guilty. See the indictment: https://www.scribd.com/doc/259053504/Pugh-Indictment This story has been updated with more information on Pugh. Ryan J. Reilly contributed to this report.