Virginia man arrested over alleged efforts to join terrorist group Al Shabab

Zachary Adam Chesser of Virginia was arrested Wednesday and charged with material support to Somalia-based Al Shabab, which the US designates as a terrorist group.

By , Staff writer

A Virginia man who once warned the creators of "South Park," the cartoon satire television show, of the dangers of poking fun at the Prophet Mohammed was arrested Wednesday and charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist group.

Zachary Adam Chesser of Fairfax County, Va., is alleged to have tried to join the Somalia-based Al Shabab group, which officials say maintains ties to Al Qaeda.

Al Shabab was added to a State Department list of terrorist groups in 2008. Officials say its members are violent and brutal.

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According to federal officials, Mr. Chesser, a US citizen who also used the name Abu Talhah al-Amrikee, tried twice to travel to Somalia to join Al Shabab as a foreign fighter.

Most recently on July 10, Chesser was reportedly prevented from boarding a flight from New York to Uganda. He was traveling with his infant son, and officials say he used the child as cover to avoid official scrutiny and suspicion that he was on his way to join up with the Muslim extremist group in Somalia.

Chesser allegedly revealed to federal agents that he maintained several online profiles dedicated to extremist jihad propaganda, federal officials say. He allegedly posted online pro-jihad messages and videos. Officials say these included an article describing the prerequisites needed before leaving for jihad. They say Chesser took those same steps before his July 10 attempt to fly to Africa.

“This case exposes the disturbing reality that extreme radicalization can happen anywhere, including northern Virginia,” said US Attorney Neil MacBride. “This young man is accused of seeking to join Al Shabab, a brutal terrorist organization with ties to Al Qaeda. These allegations underscore the need for continued vigilance against homegrown terror threats.”

Chesser reportedly posted a message online in April after "South Park" aired an episode that portrayed the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit. He warned that the show's creators would probably end up dead, like a murdered Dutch filmmaker who released a 2004 documentary critical of Islam.

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