A New Jersey man, indicted yesterday for attempting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), marks the 12th U.S. resident charged with supporting or joining Islamic extremism this year and demonstrates the presence of anti-Semitism and role of online propaganda in the radicalization process.
Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh is a U.S. citizen and former air force mechanic from Neptune, NJ. He allegedly attempted to travel to join ISIS in January but was detained and sent back to the U.S. by Egyptian officials. Pugh was arrested on January 16, 2015, upon his return to the U.S., but the charges were made public following yesterday’s indictment.
Pugh’s Facebook profile included multiple anti-Semitic and anti-Israel posts as well as posts supporting Hamas.
In July 2014, Pugh wrote a post that stated, in part, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within themselves. On the day of Judgment full responsibility of the starving, torture, jailing and killing of innocent Muslims will rest upon there (sic) shoulders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang themselves,” and posted an image with text stating, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our G-d is Lucifer.” In August 2014, he shared an image that referenced blood libel accusations, depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slitting the throats of sleeping children.
Pugh also posted several cartoons equating Jews, Israel or Zionists to Nazis, as well as multiple images claiming to depict Israeli war crimes.
Although Pugh did not publicly post his support for ISIS, he did share a quote by terror propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki in August 2014. Awlaki is frequently cited as an inspiration for extremism by Americans who have been linked to terrorism.
Pugh allegedly also used his computer to research joining ISIS and watch ISIS propaganda videos. An investigation reportedly found that he had used the internet to search for the terms, “borders controlled by Islamic state,” “who controls kobani (a city that has been contested by ISIS),” “kobani border crossing,” and “jarablus border crossing,” and the feature-film length terror propaganda video “Flames of War,” which depicts and apocalyptic struggle between ISIS and the West. He had also allegedly viewed a chart of crossing points between Turkey and Syria and had downloaded at least one ISIS execution video, along with other ISIS videos.
Additional Facebook posts by Pugh demonstrated anti-U.S. sentiment. One post from August 2014, taken from Iranian controlled media outlet Press TV, depicted protesters burning an effigy of President Barack Obama. A post earlier that month included an article that Pugh wrote describing “the rape of a Muslim woman by the American forces.” According to media reports, some Facebook posts not publicly available also expressed Pugh’s desire to never return to the U.S.
Pugh also shared images praising the terror group Hamas. In August 2014, he shared an apparent image of Hamas militants “returned safely after 21 days of siege.” In July 2014, he shared a photo of Hamas militants with the caption, “Thank you! You make us proud …”
The 12 U.S. residents charged with Islamic extremism related terror offenses this year have been arrested in 7 different states including New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana and Missouri. Pugh is also the 31st American resident publicly linked to ISIS since 2014.