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Former U.S. soldier who allegedly tried to join Somali terrorist group denied bail

By Carol Cratty, CNN
updated 7:25 PM EST, Wed January 11, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A federal judge rules Craig Benedict Baxam is a flight risk and a possible danger
  • Baxam is charged with attempting to travel to Somalia to join a terrorist group
  • He is a former U.S. Army soldier
  • Baxam was arrested Friday as he returned from a failed effort to join Al-Shabaab

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former U.S. Army soldier charged with attempting to travel to Somalia to join a terrorist group was denied bail Wednesday and will remain in jail pending trial.

In a detention hearing for Craig Benedict Baxam, a federal judge ruled he would be detained as a flight risk and a possible danger to the community, according to the Maryland U.S. attorney's office.

Baxam was arrested Friday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport as he returned from a failed effort to get to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab, authorities said.

According to a criminal complaint filed on Monday, Baxam departed the United States on December 20 en route to Kenya and tried to travel on to Somalia from there.

Three days later, Kenyan Police stopped a bus on which Baxam was traveling and arrested him on suspicion of terrorism.

Baxam was interviewed twice by FBI agents while he was in Kenyan custody and allegedly told them he wanted to join Al-Shabaab, live under Sharia law and never intended to to leave Somalia. According to the criminal complaint, Baxam said he was "looking for dying (sic) with a gun in my hand" and said he would be guaranteed a place in paradise.

Prosecutors say Baxam secretly converted to Islam just days before leaving the Army in July. He joined the Army in 2007 and underwent eight months of advanced training for cryptology and intelligence, according to the government. After his training, Baxam was deployed to Baghdad and to South Korea where he separated from the service one month before the completion of his deployment. The court document does not explain why Baxam left the Army early.

A law enforcement official said there is nothing to suggest Baxam compromised any military information.

Baxam told FBI agents he had no religious affiliation but while surfing the Internet he found an Islamic religious website. The criminal complaint states there was an article on the site about the "day of judgment" that struck Baxam and that "Baxam read more and immediately realized that Islam was the truth."

"Mr. Baxam was caught in Kenya before he reached Somalia, and there is no allegation that anyone assisted him," said Rod Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland on Monday.

According to the criminal complaint, Baxam told the FBI he didn't have names of any Al-Shabaab contacts to reach out to in Somalia but that he "trusted in Allah."

"He was asked what he thought his role would be with Al-Shabaab to which he stated that he would just be another body there," according to the court document.

Prosecutors say Baxam cashed out his retirement savings account of a little over $3,600 dollars and purchased a round trip ticket to Kenya to avoid arousing suspicion, but he planned to remain in Somalia. He allegedly intended to give Al-Shabaab some amount between $600 and $700 dollars as an offering upon his arrival, authorities said.

If convicted of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, Baxam faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

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