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Former US Airman Charged with Trying to Join ISIS

  • Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh (Photo: Facebook)
    Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh (Photo: Facebook)
  • Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh (Photo: Facebook)
    Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh (Photo: Facebook)

A former U.S. airman was indicted on federal charges Monday with trying to cross into Syria and join the ISIS militant group, authorities announced Tuesday.

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, a U.S. citizen, flew into Turkey in January with intentions to cross the Syrian border, according to U.S. court documents. He was denied entry by Turkish officials and flown to Egypt where he was then deported to the U.S. on Jan. 15. He was arrested on Jan. 16.

On Monday, Pugh was indicted by a grand jury in Brooklyn and charged with "attempting to provide material support" to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and "obstruction and attempted obstruction of justice," according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He will be arraigned Wednesday.

Pugh served as an as an avionics instrument specialist in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990. He has since worked multiple aircraft maintenance jobs as a civilian. He was fired in December 2014 from Gryphon Airlines where he worked as an aircraft mechanic in Kuwait.

When Pugh was taken into custody by Turkish officials near the border, he was carrying an iPod, four USB drives and a cell phone. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force received a search warrant to inspect Pugh's personal electronic devices.

The search found on his laptop a chart with multiple border crossing points with areas controlled by ISIS marked off. The laptop also contained multiple pieces of ISIS media propaganda to include the video "Flames of War," according to court documents.

Pugh also carried out multiple suspicious Internet searches to include "borders controlled by Islamic state," "kobani border crossing," and "jarablus border crossing," according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Pugh faces up to 35 years in prison.

"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," said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York. "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."

When a Gryphon Airlines official was contacted by phone on Tuesday, she said a statement from the company was forthcoming.

-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at mike.hoffman@military.com

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