Military Connection: Former Airman Facing Charges

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh

By Debbie Gregory

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh was indicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, for allegedly trying to join the Islamic State terrorist group.

However, Pugh, 47, isn’t just a normal civilian. He served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990 as an avionics instrument system specialist. His training included the installation and maintenance of aircraft engines, navigation and weapons systems. Around 1998, Pugh moved to San Antonio, Texas, and converted to Islam. Since then, he has become increasingly radical in his beliefs.

Pugh was detained by Turkish authorizes in January when he landed in Istanbul. He told authorities that he was a “pilot with the United States Special Forces” who was vacationing in Turkey, but Turkish authorities were suspicious of his final destination. He was put on a plane to Cairo, where he told Egyptian authorities that he went to Turkey in search of a job, adamant that he had no plans of going to Syria.

Not coincidentally, Pugh’s electronic devices, including his laptop, had been “purposely tampered with” to prevent anyone from accessing them. Pugh told authorities that he had a wife in Egypt.

Upon investigation of his laptop, the FBI found a letter apparently written to his Egyptian wife in which he claimed to be a mujahid. A mujahid is one who struggles for the sake of Allah and Islam. He stated, “ I am a sword against the oppressor and a shield for the oppressed. I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic States. There is [sic]only two possible outcomes for me. Victory or Martyr.”

The FBI also found around 180 jihadist videos on the laptop, including one that showed graphic murders committed by Islamic State, according to the indictment.

In 2001, one of Pugh’s co-workers told the FBI that Pugh “felt the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies overseas were justified and expressed anti-American sentiment.” Another associate told the FBI back in 2002 that Pugh expressed the desire to go to Chechnya to fight as a jihadist.

Pugh has pleaded not guilty to two charges, including attempting to provide material support to a terror organization.

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Military Connection: Former Airman Facing Charges: By Debbie Gregory