A former U.S. Army soldier and recent convert to Islam was charged today with attempting to join an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in Somalia. The indictment of Craig Baxam, 24, comes just days after the Kenyan and British governments announced they were seeking several British citizens who had allegedly joined the same terror group, al Shabaab, and plotted attacks in Kenya.
Baxam, who appeared in federal court in Maryland, faces a charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group. Authorities alleged that Baxam flew to Kenya with the intention of crossing into Somalia to join al Shabaab, which has been responsible for terror attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.
Baxam, from Laurel, Maryland, served four years in the Army before being discharged last July. In December, according to U.S. authorities, Baxam was arrested by Kenyan police in a small coastal town near the Somalia border. Baxam had already been to Somalia, according to the criminal complaint, and told federal agents that he had donated between $600 and $700 to al Shabaab.
Last week, the British government warned of al Shabaab attacks inside Kenya, and Kenyan authorities announced that they had arrested suspected terrorists and issued arrest warrants for others.
One of those wanted for suspected ties to terrorism is a British mother of three who converted to Islam. Kenyan police issued an arrest warrant on January 4 for 26-year-old Natalie Faye Webb, alleging that Webb had links to known Shabaab terrorists. Kenyan police provided Kenyan media with a South African passport that they said Webb had used to enter the country in 2011.
According to London's Sunday Times, U.K. citizen and Muslim convert Jermaine Grant was arrested in Mombasa, Kenya by Kenyan police. He was reportedly radicalized in the same U.K. prison as convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. Bomb-making materials were allegedly found at Grant's home when he was arrested.
Al Shabaab, which means the "lads" in Arabic, has waged a decade-long insurgency inside Somalia and more recently has conducted attacks outside the lawless country. In 2010 an al Shabaab suicide attack killed more than 76 people in Kampala, Uganda.
The group recently announced that they were sending teams of attackers to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in response to recent the Kenyan military incursion into southern Somalia.
British authorities have warned U.K. nationals in Kenya to be on guard after the Kenyan government alerted the public to an increased threat of attacks in Nairobi. The U.K.'s Foreign Office said it urged Britons to "exercise extra vigilance and caution in public places."