Must be another lone wolf.
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 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, that it carries a maximum sentence of 15 years and that he has the rights to remain silent and to be represented by counsel, answering each time with a simple “yes.”
Yeah, he just had a religious awakening, conveniently timed with his exit from the military.
He joined the Army in 2007 and completed eight months of advanced training in cryptology and intelligence at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas. He joined the 18th Airborne Corps in Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2008 and deployed to Iraq.
On his return, he re-enlisted, joined the 2nd Infantry Division and deployed in 2010 for a one-year assignment at Camp Red Cloud, an Army base located between Seoul and the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea.
Phillips 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.”
Phillips said Baxam cashed out his retirement savings of about $3,500 and purchased a plane ticket to Nairobi, Kenya. Although he had no plans to return, Phillips said, he purchased a round-trip ticket to avoid arousing suspicion.
Before Baxam left, Phillips said, he destroyed his computer.
Hopefully the Army is having a nice look at any of Baxam’s acquaintances, unless that would offend anyone.