A Laurel man was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on a charge of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Craig Benedict Baxam, 24, is accused of trying to travel to Somalia last year to join al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida linked group that U.S. officials say is responsible for assassinations, suicide bombings and other attacks on the central government, civil society leaders, aid workers, peace activists and journalists.

Baxam, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, was detained by police in Kenya in December and interviewed there by FBI agents. He was arrested on his return to the United States in January.

Prosecutors say Baxam converted to Islam shortly before he left the Army in July 2011 and decided to travel to Somalia to join and fight for al-Shabaab.

They say the 2005 Laurel High School graduate was carrying between $600 and $700 that he intended to give to al-Shabaab when he was arrested near Mombassa.

Baxam allegedly told investigators that he would defend al-Shabaab if it were attacked by the United States and that he was "looking for dying with a gun in my hand."

During a court appearance in January, Baxam's public defender said any statements his client made about defending al-Shabaab came in response to leading questions.

Public defender John Chamble said Baxam wanted to move to territory controlled by al-Shabaab only so that he could live under Sharia law.

Chamble called Baxam "naive" and "impulsive," and said the likeliest outcome had he reached Somalia is that al-Shabaab would have "put a bullet in his head."

If convicted, Baxam faces up to 15 years in prison. No court appearance was scheduled on Wednesday.

He has been held since his arrest Jan. 6.

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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