Former American soldier Eric Harroun has been charged with fighting alongside a terrorist group that is battling the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. Harroun is accused of arriving in Syria in January and helping the Al Nusra Front, a group which American officials say is part of Al Qaeda, attack Assad’s forces. Harroun, 30, served in the United States Army from 2000 to 2003. He was discharged from the Army in 2003 after being injured in a car accident.
He was arrested Wednesday at Dulles International Airport and made his first appearance in Federal District Court on Thursday. Harroun has been charged with “conspiring to use a destructive device outside the United States,” a crime that can carry a life sentence.
Harroun told an F.B.I. agent, Paul Higginbotham, that he was part of an “R.P.G. team,” firing rocket-propelled grenades, according to an affidavit. Those grenades would qualify as a “destructive device” under the law. The charge against him does not have a direct link to terrorism but more charges could be filed at a later date, according to The New York Times.
The ex-solider posted reports about his time in Syria on Facebook and YouTube. Harroun wrote that “the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist,” on his Facebook page. However he also told the F.B.I. that “he hated Al Qaeda, that he did not know any Al Qaeda members, and that he would fight against any regime if it imposed Shariah law in Syria because he was opposed to all forms of oppression.” Shariah is Islamic law.
“If this guy’s telling the truth, there’s an interesting question as to why we’re prosecuting him,” said Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas who specializes in national security. “He seems to be fighting on the U.S. side, but with the wrong people.”