McLEAN, Va. (CBS/AP) Zachary Chesser, the man best known for making online death threats to the creators of "South Park" for mocking the Prophet Muhammad, has been arrested and charged with offering himself as a fighter to a Somali terror group linked to al Qaeda.
The 20-year-old, who also used the name Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, reportedly told FBI agents that he twice tried to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabab as a fighter. On the most recent attempt, earlier this month, Chesser brought his infant son with him as he tried to board a flight from New York to Uganda so he would look less suspicious, according to an FBI affidavit.
Chesser, of Oakton, Va., was barred from the July 10 flight and told by the Transportation Security Administration that he was on the no-fly list, according to the affidavit.
Chesser made an initial appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court on charges of providing material support to the al-Shabab group, which earlier this month claimed responsibility for a July 11 bombing in Uganda that killed more than 75 people watching the World Cup.
Chesser, dressed casually and shorn of the long beard that was a feature in Internet videos in which he appears, is being held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday. Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg said Chesser faces a potential maximum of 15 years in prison.The affidavit makes only a brief mention of Chesser's warnings to the "South Park" creators, saying that Chesser told authorities his parents were no longer speaking to him because of death threats they received after Chesser posted his own warnings.
In April, Chesser posted a warning on the revolutionmuslim.com website that Trey Parker and Matt Stone could face the same fate as a Dutch filmmaker who was killed after making a movie about a woman who rejected Muhammad's teachings. An episode of the show depicted Muhammad in a bear costume.
At the time, Chesser said his online posting was not a threat.
"It's not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome," Chesser told FoxNews.com. "They're going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It's just the reality."
The FBI affidavit in the case of the Somali terror group states that Chesser wrote to the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki last year, and received two responses. Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen now living in Yemen who has recently been designated a terrorist by the U.S. government. Al-Awlaki is believed to have corresponded with several alleged terrorists, including Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in November at Fort Hood, Tex.