The Virginia man who threatened the creators of South Park after they featured the Prophet Mohammed in an episode was charged Wednesday with providing material support to a Somalian terrorist group.
Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, is accused of trying to travel to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab, a designated terrorist organization, as a foreign fighter. He also allegedly maintained several online profiles dedicated to extremist jihad propaganda, which he used to post pro-jihad messages and videos online.
In April, Chesser — who also goes by the name Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee — posted on the radical Islamist website RevolutionMuslim.com that the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, would “probably end up” like Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.
Van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam in 2004 by an alleged extremist for a film he created that was critical of Islam.
After the statement about the South Park creators was publicized, Chesser told Fox News that his words were not intended as a threat but rather a warning of what was likely to happen.
The affidavit only briefly mentions the South Park incident, noting that Chesser was no longer on speaking terms with his parents because they received death threats after his statement was publicized.
According to the affidavit, Chesser was in contact with American-born, al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, who inspired him to pursue jihad. In July 2010, Chesser bought an airline ticket to fly to Uganda. He was picked up at the airport by the FBI and admitted under questioning that he intended to travel from Uganda to Somalia in order to join the terrorist group.
“This case exposes the disturbing reality that extreme radicalization can happen anywhere, including Northern Virginia,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride said in a statement. “This young man is accused of seeking to join Al-Shabaab, a brutal terrorist organization with ties to Al-Qa’ida. These allegations underscore the need for continued vigilance against homegrown terror threats.”
Agents from the FBI’s Washington Field Office investigation the case, which is being prosecuted by Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg and Trial Attorney John T. Gibbs of the Counterterrorism Section in the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Chesser is expected to appear in court in Alexandria, Va., Thursday.
Additional reporting by Ryan J. Reilly.