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"South Park" Critic in Court on Terror Charge

Updated at 1:41 p.m. ET

A Virginia man best known for posting an online attack against the creators of the animated series "South Park" will spend at least one more day in jail on unrelated charges that he twice tried to join a Somali terror group linked to al Qaeda.

Zachary Chesser, 20, of Oakton, Va., made an initial appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court on charges of providing material support to the al-Shabab terror group, which earlier this month claimed responsibility for a July 11 bombing in Uganda that killed more than 75 people watching the World Cup.

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Chesser did not have an attorney and requested a court-appointed lawyer. Dressed casually and shorn of the long beard that was a feature in Internet videos in which he appears, he otherwise did not speak in a hearing that lasted barely two minutes. He is being held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday. Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg said Chesser faces a potential maximum of 15 years in prison.

FBI agents say Chesser twice tried to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabab as a fighter. An FBI affidavit says he was stopped once by his mother-in-law. The second time occurred on July 10, when he took his infant son with him and tried to board a flight from New York to Uganda. An FBI affidavit states that Chesser took his son to the airport so he would appear less suspicious. He was denied entry to the flight and told he was on the no-fly list.

He is also accused of using the Internet to spread propaganda on behalf of al-Shabab members.

Chesser gained notoriety earlier this year for warning online that the creators of the animated series "South Park" risked death by mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

A court affidavit also states that Chesser corresponded with the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki last year, and received two responses. Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen living in Yemen who was recently 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.

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Federal public defender Michael Nachmanoff was appointed to represent Chesser on Thursday, along with Brian Mizer, a former Navy officer who represented Salim Hamdan, the one-time driver for Osama bin Laden, in a military trial at Guantanamo Bay in 2008.

Nachmanoff declined comment Thursday.

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