By Jim Kouri
In a case involving yet another radicalized American Muslim who served in an Army intelligence unit, a criminal complaint was filed this week in Maryland federal court charging a male resident of Laurel, Maryland, with attempting to provide material support to al Shabaab, a Somali-based terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda.
Craig Benedict Baxam, 24, was arrested on Friday, January 6, 2012, upon his return to Maryland after his trip to Africa.
“The complaint alleges that Craig Baxam intended to travel to Somalia and join the terrorist organization al Shabaab,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Mr. Baxam was caught in Kenya before he reached Somalia, and there is no allegation that anyone assisted him.”
“FBI special agents in Africa, working alongside our Kenyan police partners, worked together to stop an individual who is now alleged to have been on his way to join a major terrorist group. This spirit of cooperation in fighting terrorism continues to transcend borders around the world.”
According to the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, Baxam joined the U.S. Army in 2007 and completed eight months of advanced training in intelligence and cryptology. Baxam was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq and upon completion of his deployment, he reenlisted. In August 2010, he deployed for a one year assignment in Korea. One month prior to completion of his deployment in Korea, Baxam separated from the Army and returned to Maryland in July 2011.
The affidavit alleges that Baxam secretly converted to Islam just days before he separated from the Army, after finding an Islamic religious web site on the Internet. Baxam allegedly decided to relocate to Somalia to join al Shabaab and live under Sharia law.
Al Shabaab is a brutal group that uses intimidation and violence to undermine Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG). In February 2008, the U.S. Department of State designated al Shabaab, aka Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin, a/k/a “The Youth,” as a foreign terrorist organization, stating that al Shabaab has committed or poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism that threaten the security of the United States.
Baxam cashed out his retirement savings of approximately $3,600 and purchased a plane ticket to Kenya. He set out to travel to Somalia, via Kenya, with between $600 and $700, which he planned to give to al Shabaab as an offering shortly after he crossed into Somalia. On December 20, 2011, Baxam flew from Baltimore-Washington International Airport and arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on December 22. He took a bus to Mombasa, Kenya, and hired taxis to travel through Kenya to Somalia.
On December 23, 2011, Kenyan police stopped a bus in which Baxam was traveling near Mombasa, Kenya, and arrested Baxam 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 FBI agents working overseas.
Baxam faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI’s Maryland and NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces for their work in this investigation.