US & Canada

US veteran denies Islamic State terror charges

Tairod Pugh Image copyright Facebook

A US Air Force veteran accused of trying to join Islamic State has appeared in court in New York and denied all charges.

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, a 47-year-old former aircraft mechanic from New Jersey, spoke only to repeat his name to the judge.

His lawyer, Michael K Schneider, entered the plea on his behalf.

Mr Pugh has been charged with trying to provide material support to a terrorist group and obstructing justice.

He was stopped at a Turkish airport in January with a laptop that had detailed information on border crossings into Syria and jihadist videos, according to court papers.

A letter he allegedly wrote to a woman thought to be his wife says: "I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic States."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Pugh (right) only spoke to repeat his name
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Security was tight outside court

Mr Pugh is an American citizen who was born and raised in the US, prosecutors say.

According to a statement from the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, Mr Pugh served as an avionics specialist and mechanic in the US Air Force.

After he left the military, he did similar work for several companies in the United States and the Middle East.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis arranged for another hearing in May to review the evidence and discuss the plea.

Path to deportation

  • 1986-1990: Serves in US Air Force as avionics specialist and mechanic
  • 1998: Moves to San Antonio, Texas, where he converts to Islam
  • 2001: Works as mechanic for American Airlines, at which time FBI receives tip from a co-worker that Mr Pugh sympathises with Osama Bin Laden and says bombings of US embassies in 1998 were justified
  • 2002: FBI interviews an associate who says Mr Pugh interested in travelling to Chechnya to fight jihad
  • October 2009-March 2010: Works on avionics as contractor for DynCorp in Iraq
  • 10 January 2015: Tells Turkish authorities he is on holiday there, sent back to Egypt where he is detained pending deportation to US

Source: United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York