Feds: Air Force Veteran Tried to Join ISIS

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh's January arrest just now coming to light
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2015 3:31 PM CDT
Thick smoke rises in Kobani, Syria. Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh allegedly searched for information about Kobani.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

(Newser) – A secret arrest made two months ago is just now coming to light: that of a Neptune, NJ, native who served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990—and allegedly tried to join ISIS’ ranks. ABC News reports Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, 47, has been deported back to the US after years spent abroad. His overseas path took him from Egypt to Turkey on Jan. 10; court documents show he was barred from Turkey, scuttling his alleged plan to cross into Syria. Pugh was returned by Egyptian officials to America, where the FBI promptly arrested him. A search of his laptop turned up a history that prosecutors say involved the following search terms: “borders controlled by Islamic state,” “kobani border crossing,” and “who controls kobani,” along with roughly 180 extremist propaganda videos; two backpacks were said to hold survival gear.

Investigators say his cellphone also contained images of airplanes, including an airplane bathroom and an area under passenger seats. ABC News and the AP trace his personal history: He served as an avionics instrument system specialist with the Air Force. A move to San Antonio in 1998 was followed by a conversion to Islam. Pugh was brought to the FBI's attention three years later when, as an American Airlines mechanic, a co-worker reported he was making comments sympathetic to Osama bin Laden. He was reportedly fired from his most recent job, as an airline mechanic in Kuwait, in December. He was indicted yesterday on charges of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group and obstruction of justice; he's set to appear in federal court tomorrow in NYC. He faces 35 years in prison.

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