The US just arrested an Army veteran for conspiring with a terrorist organization in Syria. The question is, is he a freedom fighter, as he claims, or terrorist sympathizer? Here are five facts that’ll bring you up to speed on this intriguing story.
1. His name is Eric Harroun
A native of Phoenix, thirty-year-old Eric Harroun joined the Army in 2000, and served until 2003, when he was medically discharged after a car accident. He reportedly has a steel plate in his head as a result. A self-defined freedom fighter, Harroun claims to have participated in several Arab Spring uprisings.
2. He traveled to Syria in January
Last January, Harroun entered Syria via Turkey in order to join the Free Syrian Army, which is backed by the US, and is opposing the government forces of regime president, Bashar al-Assad. Harroun told the FBI that just three days after arriving, he participated in an attack on a Syrian army encampment. Soon he acquired a nickname, “The American”, which he began cultivating. He likely first received direct negative attention from the DoD when they figured out that he had fallen in with Al-Qaeda linked group, Jabhat al-Nusra.
3. Jabhat al-Nusra has been designated a terrorist organization
Al-Nusra was recently deemed a terrorist organization by the State Department, and is one of the reasons that the Obama administration has not been willing to directly supply the rebels with arms and other necessities. Instead, the rebels have been relying on goods from neighboring Qatar and Saudi-Arabia.
During interviews with the FBI, Harroun claims that he has shot at least ten people, but he does not know if they died or not. Harroun’s primary job for the rebels was as a member of an RPG (Rock Propelled Grenade) team. Through posts on Facebook and other social media, he claims to have helped down a Syrian army helicoptor, writing, “Downed a Syrian Helicopter then Looted all Intel and Weapons!” The above clip is from a youtube video that Harroun allegedly posted, which depicts him and other rebels celebrating what looks to be a downed helicopter.
5. He was arrested at a hotel in Virginia and charged with conspiracy
On March 27, after numerous interviews in Turkey and elsewhere, the FBI, referring to Harroun’s role in an RPG team, decided to arrest and charge him with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. He also acknowledged that he knew that al-Nusra was designated a terrorist organization, but that he didn’t know anyone from Al-Qaeda. His detainment hearing is set for Tuesday, April second, where he is expected to enter a plea. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.