WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former U.S. Army soldier trained in intelligence and cryptology has been arrested and charged for trying to help the Somali al Shabaab militant group, an al Qaeda affiliate, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.
Craig Baxam, 24 and from a Maryland suburb outside Washington, was arrested by Kenyan authorities last month as he tried to cross the border into Somalia to join the group, federal prosecutors said.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2007 and was deployed to Iraq. He re-enlisted in August 2010 and was deployed to South Korea for one year, but he left a month before completing his term, according to an FBI affidavit.
During his final days in the military he converted to Islam, it said.
Baxam flew from Baltimore to Nairobi on December 20 and tried to make it by bus and taxi to the Somali border, according to the court papers.
He had planned to offer $600 to $700 to al-Shabaab after crossing into Somalia, prosecutors said. Asked what role he had hoped to play for al Shabaab, Baxam said he would just be another body there, the FBI affidavit said.
He was interviewed by FBI agents in Nairobi in late December. Baxam said he wanted to die "with a gun in my hand," and that he would be happy to die defending Islam, according to the FBI affidavit.
He was arrested when he arrived back in the United States on January 6. Charged with trying to provide material support to al Shabaab, if convicted he faces up to 15 years in prison.
The U.S. government has designated the al Qaeda-affiliated organization a terrorist group, and al-Shabaab has sought to recruit Americans to fight for them in Somalia. The group claimed responsibility for a deadly 2010 bombing in Uganda and has waged a long, violent battle to control Somalia.
(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Philip Barbara)