FBI agents arrested a 20-year-old convert to Islam at the Canadian border early Monday morning as he tried to cross into Canada. Nicholas Teausant, who now goes by the name Assad, hoped to get to Syria to fight alongside the most radical, violent jihadist group fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Teausant is a private in the National Guard facing discharge. According to a criminal complaint charging him with attempting to provide material support to terrorists, he never attended basic training.
But he boasted that he could bring skills "most brothers wouldn't particularly have" to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Al-Qaida disavowed the group in February and demanded it leave Syria.
Teausant seemed especially determined to join the group and its jihad, telling an FBI informant to stop trying to talk him out of it, an affidavit attached to the complaint said. Neither his parents nor his girlfriend knew his plans, he told the informant. His girlfriend would turn him in if she found out. He also expressed a willingness to kill his mother if she tried to stop him.
"I love her," he said, "but she's still a kufar [infidel or non-believer]."
Teausant told the informant that he made a point of keeping his radical views a secret. His Twitter and Facebook accounts do portray someone starkly at odds with the man described in the affidavit. His Twitter profile describes himself as "Muslim, Army, Father, and Lonely. to rethink my life and try to be better person". Most recent posts deal with video gaming. A Facebook posting from last Thursday expressed shock at learning "my closest friend has never seen/heard of Starwars ever...Blasphemy!!!"
He converted to Islam about two years ago. "I promote Jihad, Not terrorism," he wrote on a personal blog Jan. 8, "and yes there is a difference." But he also read al-Qaida's Inspire magazine and investigated ways to carry out some of the ideas it suggested.
"I despise america and want its down fall but yeah haha. Lol," he wrote last May. "I been part of the army for two years now and I would love to join Allah's army but I don't even know how to start."
During a Feb. 10 meeting, he told the informant he did not plan to come back to the United States. "I'm going to be a commander and I'm going to be on the front of every single newspaper in the country," he said. In a later meeting, he said he wanted to get to Syrian before ISIS launched an anticipated offensive against another anti-Assad group, the Free Syrian Army.
FBI agents watched him board an Amtrak train Saturday night in Lodi, Cal. Sunday night, he boarded a bus in Seattle that would take him into Canada. FBI agents arrested him at a border crossing in Blaine, Wash.
The charge carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence if Teausant is convicted.