TSG Report Cited in Newsweek: U.S. Air Force Veteran Jailed for Trying to Join ISIS Claims he is Victim of Racism
June 2, 2017

U.S. Air Force Veteran Jailed for Trying to Join ISIS Claims he is Victim of Racism

By: Tom O’Connor


An Air Force veteran found guilty of trying to join the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. He maintained his innocence in a courtroom speech.

Tairod Pugh, a 59-year-old former Air Force mechanic originally from New Jersey, was first detained at an airport in Turkey in 2015 after buying a one-way plane ticket to that nation from Egypt, where he was living at the time. Turkish authorities reportedly discovered maps of ISIS territory and crossings along the porous Turkey-Syria border, as well as a trove of jihadist propaganda videos, according to prosecutors. Pugh was arrested by U.S. authorities upon his return to New York and was later found guilty of attempting to provide material support to a group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., and of obstructing justice after Pugh tried to destroy the hard drives containing the incriminating evidence of his intentions. Pugh, however, denied the charges and said he was the victim of discrimination …

Pugh’s case was the first of about 70 cases involving U.S. citizens allegedly supporting ISIS to reach a verdict. The militant group rose out of a merger between Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other jihadist organizations in 2006, and later expanded operations into Syria after war broke out between the government and other insurgent groups. At its height in 2014, ISIS claimed as many as five to six million people in territories in Iraq and Syria under its control and 200,000 active militants, according to Foreign Affairs Review. Last year, a New York-based security analysis firm, The Soufan Group, estimated that between 27,000 and 31,000 foreigners had left their homes to fight for ISIS since 2011. This figure included about 250 U.S. citizens according to a 2015 congressional report cited by NPR …


Download The Soufan Group’s updated report on Foreign Fighters here.


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