California man aiming to help al-Qaida arrested en route to Canada


California man aiming to help al-Qaida arrested en route to Canada

A 20-year-old California student and National Guard reservist planned to cross the border into Canada and then fly to Syria to join al-Qaida-linked forces, authorities said.

Photograph by: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/Files , Postmedia News

A 20-year-old California student and U.S. National Guard reservist bent on being on the FBI’s “most wanted” list boarded a Canada-bound bus in Seattle on Sunday night with the goal of travelling to Syria to join al-Qaida-linked forces, authorities said.

But before he reached the border, U.S. authorities swooped in and arrested the man, who unknowingly had been sharing his plans with an undercover FBI informant.

Nicholas Teausant of Acampo, Calif., has been charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

A criminal complaint filed Monday by an FBI agent in U.S. federal court in California described Teausant as a community college student, a Muslim convert and a member of the army’s National Guard but who had received minimal training because of a lack of academic credits.

Teausant spent months exploring ways to support violent extremist activities and had designs on joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, authorities said. The organization is an al-Qaida breakaway group known for its brutal fighting tactics in Syria’s civil war.

But the complaint suggests Teausant lacked deep knowledge of the situation overseas. When asked by the informant who he wanted to fight for, Teausant allegedly replied: “I like ISIS … Islamic State of, um, crap, I forget.”

Teausant left a trail of clues on social media, authorities said. In May 2013, a person using the name “Assad Teausant bigolsmurf” wrote on Instagram, “I despise America and want its down fall” and expressed a desire to join “Allah’s army but I don’t even know how to start.”

Later, the same person asked how to get a copy of the “lone Mujahid pocket book,” described in the complaint as a how-to guide for becoming a lone-wolf terrorist.

Beginning in October, a paid FBI informant met at various times with Teausant. Teausant shared that he had “sent cash to support the Mujahadeen,” and wanted to go to Syria to fight, “but did not know how to get there,” the complaint said.

In November, Teausant allegedly texted the informant, saying, “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be alive” and that before he died, “I want to do SOMETHING.”

In meetings earlier this year, Teausant stated his intention to travel to Syria via Canada, the complaint said. He said he’d plan his travel around spring break and would tell his mother he was going snowboarding in Whistler, B.C. He also said he’d get to the Canadian border by bus because “nobody asks questions.”

According to the complaint, Teausant had no plans to return to the U.S. as “my designs have me staying there and being on every news station in the world … Like I want my face on FBI’s top 12 most wanted.”

If his mother got in the way, he was prepared to kill her, he allegedly told the informant. “I love her, but she’s still a kufar [infidel or non-believer],” the complaint quoted him saying.

Earlier this month, the informant set up a meeting between Teausant and an undercover agent posing as a “mentor.” The mentor told Teausant that the battlefield could be chaotic but Teausant was “undeterred,” the complaint said.

Teausant sold his laptop through the informant on March 8 to get some extra cash. A forensic analysis revealed web searches for “how to build a bomb,” the complaint said.

This past weekend, FBI agents watched as Teausant travelled via Amtrak train from Lodi, Calif., to Sacramento and then on to Seattle. In Seattle, he boarded a bus for Vancouver.

Late Sunday night, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped the bus in Blaine, Wash., and arrested Teausant. credit