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Federal prosecutors have charged a former Army trooper with trying to provide support to terrorists after he allegedly traveled to Africa to link up with the violent militant group al-Shabaab.
Craig Benedict Baxam, 24, of Laurel, Md., was arrested Jan. 6 after returning to the United States from Africa. He allegedly wanted to give money to al-Shabaab, a militia group trying to destabilize Somalia's transitional government.
Baxam, an Iraq War veteran, tried to reach Somalia but was caught in Kenya by local anti-terrorism authorities, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein in a release.
He allegedly converted to Islam just days before he left the Army.
Baxam joined the Army in 2007 and completed eight months of advanced training for cryptology and intelligence at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, according to the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint.
He was deployed to Baghdad with the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., and he re-enlisted when his deployment completed. In August 2010, he deployed for a one year assignment at Camp Red Cloud, Korea, with the 2nd Infantry Division.
One month prior to completion of his deployment in Korea, Baxam separated from the Army and returned to Maryland in July 2011.
Baxam secretly converted to Islam after finding an Islamic religious website, the affidavit states.
"An article therein about the Day of Judgment spoke to Baxam," the affidavit stated. "Baxam read more and immediately realized that Islam was the truth."
He allegedly decided to relocate to Somalia to live under Sharia law and defend al-Shabaab if it was under attack.
Baxam cashed out his retirement savings of about $3,600, purchased a plane ticket to Kenya and flew out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Dec. 20, 2011.
He took a bus to Mombasa, Kenya, and hired taxis to travel through Kenya to Somalia. He carried more than $600, which he planned to give to al-Shabaab as an offering shortly after he crossed into Somalia.
On Dec. 23, 2011, Kenyan police stopped a bus in which Baxam was traveling near Mombasa, Kenya, and arrested him for attempting to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabaab.
Baxam was held at the Kenyan Anti-Terrorism Police Unit in Nairobi and interviewed by the FBI.
Al-Shabaab, which is also known as Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin and "The Youth," was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 2008.
Baxam faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.