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Converts to Islam aiding al Shabaab
From first The Baltimore Sun
Craig Benedict Baxam was surfing the Internet from his Army base in South Korea last summer when he came across an Islamic religious website.
The soldier from Laurel had never been particularly religious. But with his deployment and his time in the military coming to an end, prosecutors say, an online article about Judgment Day spoke to him. When he returned to Maryland, they say, he began to make plans to live out his life in a land governed by Sharia law. He would never make it.
Baxam, 24, was charged by federal authorities Monday with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The 2005 Laurel High School graduate is accused of trying to join al-Shabaab, the State Department-designated terrorist group that opposes the embattled transitional government in war-torn Somalia.
Baxam was detained by police in Kenya as he neared the Somali border last month. He was interviewed by FBI agents in Nairobi and arrested on his return to Maryland last week.
Baxam sat mostly quietly through an initial appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Wearing a long white robe, a thick black beard and sandals, he spoke only to affirm that he understood the charge against him,
In an affidavit filed earlier Monday, FBI Special Agent John B. Phillips III said Baxam considered it his duty to undertake his hijra, or migration to a Muslim land. The way Baxam saw it, according to Phillips, this meant just a few options: the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, a few islands in the Philippines or southern Somalia.
Phillips said Baxam was carrying between $600 and $700 when he was pulled off a bus and arrested outside Mombasa, Kenya. He said Baxam planned to offer the money to al-Shabaab, to join the group and to take up arms to defend it from the United States, if necessary.
illips said Baxam converted to Islam only days before his separation from the Army and had kept his new faith "secret." He was afraid to search for al-Shabaab from his home computer, Phillips said, "because he is aware of the capabilities of the United States government." . . . Baxam cashed out his retirement savings of about $3,500 and purchased a plane ticket to Nairobi, Kenya. . . arrived in Nairobi on Dec. 22nd. After attending morning prayers at a mosque, he set out on a series of bus and taxi rides in an effort to travel "as far north as possible."
Baxam attempted to maintain a low profile while traveling, Phillips said, speaking with others only as necessary. But when a man on a bus began asking questions — "Where are you going?" "Do you speak the local language?" "Do you have family here?" — Baxam opened up.
The man left the bus. It was soon stopped by Kenyan police, who took Baxam into custody. Baxam now believes the man was an informant,
The Kenyan Daily Nation reports thus: Seven foreigners including a former US soldier have been arrested in Kenya in the last two weeks over links to Al-Shabaab. Mr Craig Benedict Baxam, the ex-US soldier was charged in an American court on Monday. A British national, Mr Jermaine Grant was also charged at a Mombasa court for being in illegal possession of explosive materials. Other suspects were from other European countries, said police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.
Jermaine Grant is from Newham East London, a convert to Islam and convicted rapist.
Jermaine Grant, 29, is awaiting trial in Kenya for allegedly plotting to kill Western tourists over Christmas and the New Year on behalf of extremists linked to al Qaeda. Grant, who denies the charges of possessing explosives and conspiring to commit a crime, is believed to have joined the Somali al Shabaab group after being radicalised while at Feltham young offender institution.
On December 28 he was jailed for three years at Mombasa High Court for being in the country illegally and giving false information. Grant's mother and half-brothers still live in a terrace house, in Newham.
Meanwhile Kenyan police have issued a warrant for another British citizen, Natalie Faye Webb, who is believed to have entered Kenya with her children on a forged South African passport.
She is believed to have links to Somali Islamists who have vowed to launch fresh terror attacks since Kenya went to war to rout the radical group al-Shabaab.
"We have had some positive feedback from publishing her picture, and I can say the dragnet is closing," a senior police source in Nairobi said. "I can give no details, but suffice it to say that we believe she is not a small fish. She is among several Britons that our intelligence service is aware of in relation to terrorists' plans to attack us."