Va. Man Accused of Using Infant Son as Cover for Jihad

A man from Oakton, Va., allegedly used his infant son as cover when he attempted to leave the U.S. in order to join a terrorist organization.

Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, was prevented from boarding a flight from New York to Uganda on July 10 thanks to the no-fly list, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He told agents he intended to travel from Uganda to Somalia.

Chesser attempted to board the flight to Uganda with his son in an attempt to mask his intent to join terrorist group al-Shabaab in Somalia, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"This young man is accused of seeking to join Al-Shabaab, a brutal terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaida," U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said. "These allegations underscore the need for continued vigilance against homegrown terror threats."

Chesser, aka Abu Talhah al-Amrikee, told agents he attempted to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabaab on two occasions, according to an affidavit.

While Chesser told the FBI that he had intended on July 10 to join al-Shabaab, he told them in a July 14 interview that he had changed his mind because of the July 11 bombing in Uganda that killed more than 75 people watching the World Cup, for which al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.

But leading up to July 10, Chesser said he had corresponded with al-Shabaab members and expected to undergo a six-week basic training and then with al-Shabaab in Mogadishu. According to the affidavit, Chesser expected he would be asked to serve as a propagandist but that he had been willing to fight on the front lines.

Chesser is known for issuing a warning to the creators of "South Park" that they risked death by mocking the prophet Muhammad, the Associated Press reported. Chesser told authorities his parents were no longer speaking to him because of death threats they received after Chesser posted his warnings, according to the affidavit.

At the time, Chesser said his online posting was not a threat.

"It's not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome," Chesser told "They're going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It's just the reality."

Chesser maintained several extremist online profiles on which he posted pro-jihad messages and videos, including one detailing the steps required for leaving for jihad, which Chesser allegedly followed, according to the affidavit. He also corresponded with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki last year. Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen now living in Yemen who has recently been designated a terrorist by the U.S. government. Al-Awlaki is believed to have corresponded with several alleged terrorists, including Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in November at Fort Hood, Tex.

Chesser was charged with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Alexandria Thursday. A spokesman for the prosecutors' office said he had no information on whether Chesser currently has a lawyer.

The State Department designated Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization in 2008, describing it as a violent and extremist group based in Somalia with Al-Qaida ties.

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