A 20-year-old American soldier in the National Guard was arrested today and faces terror charges related to an alleged plot to join up with an al Qaeda-linked group in Syria, the Department of Justice said.
According to the FBI, Private Nicholas Teausant was nabbed near the Canadian border in the early morning hours as he was making his way to Syria where he hoped to become a “commander” of jihadis. He had planned the move for months, but without knowing that a man he had been confiding in the whole time was a paid FBI informant.
Teausant joined the National Guard in April 2012, but “did not meet the minimum requirements to continue” in the service and apparently for months now has been in the process of being released by the Guard, an FBI affidavit said.
Teausant never made it to basic training, but in the course of the FBI’s investigation, he allegedly bragged to an undercover agent that he had a skill set “most brothers wouldn’t particularly have.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I despise America and want its downfall…” says a message posted online in May 2013 which the FBI attributes to Teausant in its affidavit. “Lol, I been part of the army for two years now and I would love to join Allah’s army but I don’t even know how to start.”
A few months after those messages appeared online, Teausant met through a mutual friend the FBI’s informant, who was posing as a stateside “facilitator” for jihadis, in October. According to the affidavit, Teausant repeatedly told the informant he wanted to go fight in Syria on the side of al Qaeda, but in a particularly disturbing exchange in December, he implied that he was planning violence at home first.
“Don’t go to LA anytime soon… Please trust me on this… and if you do, don’t use the subway,” he allegedly wrote to the informant in a text message. The same day Teausant had asked about obtaining a “big loud” “firework.” Fireworks were a primary component in the bombs that exploded at the finish line at the Boston Marathon last April.
Later, the affidavit says Teausant told the informant that a plan to bomb the Los Angeles subway had been in place, but he scrapped it because he felt "they," perhaps meaning the authorities, had been "tipped off."
The FBI said Teausant’s attention then returned to Syria, and he again told the informant he wanted to join the battle. When asked who exactly he would fight for, Teausant responded, “I like ISIS[…] Islamic state of um crap… I forget. Islamic State of Al Sham.” Teausant likely meant the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an extremist group that has since been disavowed by al Qaeda’s leadership.
He had previously told the informant that if his family members should try to get in his way, he would have no problem killing his wife, mother or step-father, the FBI alleges. The FBI also reported that Teausant wanted to bomb his daughter’s daycare center because it was at a “Zionist reform church.”
Teausant sold his laptop to raise money for his trip, but again was unaware he actually sold it to another undercover FBI agent. Though he had allegedly attempted to delete incriminating data from the laptop, the FBI claimed they still found searches for “how to build a bomb” and “where can I buy an ISIS flag?”
Teausant is charged with a single count attempting to provide material support to terrorists. He could face up to 15 years in prison. He was scheduled to make his first court appearance today.
An ABC News investigation in January revealed a number of Americans were going to join the Syrian civil war, most of them fighting for the rebels – the same side as al Qaeda-linked groups there. More than 50 such individuals have already fought and returned home, senior officials said in that report. Not all of those who have returned are considered “jihadis” who adhere to the anti-U.S. violent ideology espouse by the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but many are suspected of such sympathies, the officials said.
In March what appeared to be two former California gang members appeared in an online video, claiming to be fighting in Syria, but on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.