A federal grand jury returned an indictment yesterday charging Craig Benedict Baxam, age 24, of Laurel, Maryland, with attempting to provide material support to Al-Shabaab, a foreign terrorist organization. Baxam never actually provided material support to a foreign terrorist organization, but is being accused for such a crime based on his statements made to Special Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Allegedly, Baxam was intentionally traveling to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab. Baxam was arrested in Kenya while traveling by himself. According to court documents, Baxam served in the U.S. Army from 2007 through July 2011, and converted to Islam shortly before he left the military. Baxam served in Iraq and Korea.

The indictment alleges that sometime after July 2011, while living in Maryland, Baxam decided to travel to Somalia to join and fight for Al-Shabaab, which Baxam knew to be a designated foreign terrorist organization. According to court documents, Al-Shabaab is a militia 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, aka 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.

The indictment alleges that Baxam cashed out his retirement savings, purchased a plane ticket to Kenya and traveled in Kenya toward its northern border with Somalia, all in his effort to join and fight for Al-Shabaab. However, Baxam’s statements made to the FBI once in custody indicate he was traveling to Somalia to conduct his “hijra,” or migration to an Islamic land. On December 23, 2011, Kenyan Anti-Terrorism police arrested Baxam near Mombasa, Kenya, for attempting to travel to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab.

Once Baxam was in custody, he provided statements to the FBI without the presence of an attorney. The statements provide the basis for the charges against him. It is unclear whether Baxam would have actually provided support to Al-Shabaab if he had made it to Somalia. Baxam’s statements simply indicate that he had converted to Islam, which is not a crime, and was traveling to an Islamic country based on his religious beliefs.

Baxam faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. No court appearance has been scheduled. Baxam has been detained since his arrest on a criminal complaint on Friday, January 6, 2012, upon his return to Maryland after traveling to Africa.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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