It sounds pretty serious on the surface: A US Army vet admits fighting alongside an al-Qaeda group, and the feds have charged him with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the US. But the details about Eric Harroun's case are a little less frightening. The 30-year-old from Phoenix says he traveled to Syria in November to join the Syrian Free Army, made up of insurgents trying to oust Bashar al-Assad. In the course of fighting, the SFA teamed up with a group linked to al-Qaeda called the al-Nusra Front. Harroun tells the FBI that he ended up at an al-Nusra camp after a battle and eventually was accepted by the fighters. The "weapon of mass destruction" he used against Assad's troops was a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, reports AP.
Harroun was arrested upon his return to the US this week. He didn't exactly keep his exploits secret as they unfolded, posting Facebook updates, photos, and YouTube videos about his battles. (He once boasted of downing a Syrian helicopter.) Two Fox News reporters profiled him earlier this month in this account, and the pair later wrote about him for Foreign Policy. This might give a taste:
- "Pinning Harroun down is never easy. At times, he appears willing to provide very specific details about himself, while at others he becomes more reserved, preferring to not comment or flat-out denying his previous statements—only to retract his retractions. He can become inexplicably hostile, hurling accusations of lying and anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist comments, or respond with flippant or jocular comments."
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, including a look at the FBI affidavit.