SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal grand jury has indicted a Bay Area man on charges of attempting to join the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, the Justice Department said Thursday.
Adam Shafi, 22, was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization - in this case the Syrian branch of al-Qaida known as the al-Nusrah Front.
Authorities say Shafi was stopped at San Francisco International Airport earlier this year while waiting to board a nonstop flight to Istanbul, Turkey. Turkey is a common entry point for foreign fighters trying to enter Syria to join terrorist groups like al-Nusrah Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly known as ISIL, the Justice Department said.
An affidavit filed by an FBI agent details several telephone conversations Shafi had with his friends prior to his trip in which he expressed his love of "Jaulani," the amir of al-Nusrah Front, and his willingness "to die with them."
According to the affidavit, Shafi also told his friends he hoped "Allah doesn't take my soul until I have at least, like, a couple gallons of blood that I've spilled for him." Shafi also expressed his fear of meeting Allah "when my face has no scars on it," and kept his friends apprised of his progress in saving money for the trip, the Justice Department said.
Authorities arrested Shafi on July 3, but he made his first appearance for arraignment on Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim.
Shafi is currently in custody but has moved to be released on bail, the Justice Department said.
If convicted, Shafi faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Officially formed in 2012, al-Nusrah Front is a Sunni Islamist militia fighting against the Syrian government in that nation's long-running civil war.
The group's stated goal is to turn Syria into an Islamist state - a goal shared by ISIL - but paints itself as moderate in that it wishes to impose Sharia law more gradually than ISIL plans.
Al-Nusrah Front has criticized ISIL for pushing its agenda too quickly and alienating people, and particularly of ISIL's enthusiasm for punishments like public stoning and chopping off limbs.
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