NAIROBI, Kenya — A former US soldier has been charged after allegedly trying to join Somalia's Al Shabaab militants.
Muslim convert Craig Baxam, 24, was "trained in cryptology and intelligence" said the Washington Post but his bid to join the Islamist group was almost comically inept.
The Al Qaeda-linked group was designated as a terrorist organization by the US in 2008 and in its propaganda and recruitment videos has specifically targeted young Muslims living in the US and Europe as well as the Horn of Africa.
It is believed to count hundreds of foreign fighters among its number including Alabama-born Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, a senior Al Shabaab commander.
According to court documents, however, Baxam was no Hammami.
He floundered around in Kenya with a few hundred dollars, a copy of the Koran and a prayer mat before of his arrest by Kenyan police on 23 December as he rode in a bus headed for the Somali border.
In a statement the FBI said Baxam was in the US army for four years, including deployments in Iraq and South Korea.
After converting to Islam he decided he wanted to live under Shariah law and chose Somalia as his new home.
It is not thought that he had actually made any formal contact with the Al Shabaab, nor did he have any accomplices.
According to an affidavit he told FBI interrogators that he was "looking for dying with a gun in my hand" and described the public beatings the Shabaab metes out to those not in the mosque during prayer times as "awesome."
If found guilty of attempting to join a terrorist organization Baxam will face 15 years in prison.
He is due in court in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Tuesday.