Craig Benedict Baxam accused of wanting to join terrorist organization

A 24-year-old former Army veteran from Laurel, Md. who served in Iraq is facing charges that he wants to help Al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization.

Authorities say Craig Benedict Baxam secretly converted to Islam before he left the Army in 2010 and then wanted to move to Somalia and live under Sharia law.

“The complaint alleges that Craig Baxam intended to travel to Somalia and join the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Mr. Baxam was caught in Kenya before he reached Somalia, and there is no allegation that anyone assisted him.”

In Federal Court Monday, Baxam appeared with a beard and a long traditional Muslim robe. He looked calm and smiled when he saw his mother in the gallery. When told he was charged with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, he answered yes, that he understood the charges.

According to authorities, Baxam joined the Army in 2007 and finished eight months of advance training in cryptoloy and intelligence. He was deployed to Baghdad and in August 2010 he deployed for a one year in Korea.

He left the army and returned to Maryland one month before he finished his deployment in Korea.

Authorities allege Baxam traveled to Somalia, via Kenya, with between $600 and $700, which he planned to give to Al-Shabaab.

On December 23, 2011, Kenyan police stopped a bus Baxam was riding in Kenya and arrested him for attempting to travel to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab.

Prosecutors say that when he was asked what he thought his role would be with the group, he said "he would just be another body there."

He also allegedly said he was "looking for dying with a gun in my hand."

Reached by telephone on Monday, Baxam's father declined to comment. He said he was undergoing dialysis.

The court document charging Baxam says he told officials that if he was released he would take care of his dying father and, if his father should die, he would then try to join al-Shabab again.

“FBI Special Agents in Africa, working alongside our Kenyan police partners, worked together to stop an individual who is now alleged to have been on his way to join a major terrorist group. This spirit of cooperation in fighting terrorism continues to transcend borders around the world,”
said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard McFeely.

Baxam's public defender said he hopes the charges do not get blown out of proportion.

He is slated to appear in court Wednesday for a detention hearing.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.