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Tairod Pugh Pleads Not Guilty to Charges of Trying to Join ISIS

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn to charges that he planned to join ISIS.
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A former U.S. Air Force mechanic accused of attempting to join ISIS appeared Wednesday in a Brooklyn federal court, where he pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges.

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh entered the plea before Judge Nicholas Garaufis, NBC New York reported. Pugh faces two criminal counts, including attempting to provide material support to a terror organization.

According to the indictment, Pugh was fired from a job in Kuwait as an airplane mechanic in December 2014. He then allegedly flew from Egypt to Turkey on January 10 in an effort to cross the border into Syria to join ISIS and wage violent jihad.

Turkish authorities denied him entry into the country, however, and sent him on back to Egypt. He was deported from Egypt to the U.S. in January 15, after he was found carrying suspicious items, including a photograph of a machine gun. While Pugh was arrested Jan. 16, the case has been sealed.

Prosecutors said searches of his laptop revealed online queries about borders and crossing points controlled by the Islamic State, and videos showing ISIS executions. Social-media posts showed Pugh repeatedly professed a desire never to return to the U.S., even though he has family — including children — in the country.

Pugh served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990 as an avionics instrument specialist, according to court documents. After leaving the Air Force, officials say, Pugh worked for a number of companies in the U.S. and Middle East as an avionics specialist and airplane mechanic.


— Cassandra Vinograd, Michael Kosnar and Daniel Arkin