Report: Army vet accused of joining Islamic militants in Syria

Eric Harroun, a 30-year-old veteran who served in the Army from 2000 to 2003, appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Va., on Thursday, according to The Washington Post

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He was taken into custody by FBI agents on Wednesday at Dulles International Airport after returning from a flight from an unknown location overseas, the Post reports. Pretrial hearings are scheduled for next Tuesday. 

Along with conspiring with a known terrorist organization, Harroun is also accused of using a "weapon of mass destruction" when he was trained to use rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) by members of the Al-Nusra Front. 

Al-Nusra Front, also known as Jahbat al Nusra (JAN), is the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic militant group whose forces have been on the front lines alongside anti-Assad rebels throughout the two-year Syrian civil war. 

JAN gunmen have hammered government positions near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and elsewhere across the country, reportedly with the support of Turkish forces stationed near the Turkish-Syrian border. 

State Department officials places JAN on its list of officially recognized terrorist groups, putting Al-Nusra Front on par with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. 

Harroun reportedly traveled to Turkey last November and crossed the border into Syria and linked up with opposition forces led by JAN and members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in January, according to court documents. 

Once in Syria, Harroun was trained to use rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons and then moved to the front lines of the war by his handlers in the FSA. 

In previous meetings with FBI officials in Istanbul prior to his arrest in Northern Virginia, Harroun claimed to have participated in multiple offensives against Syrian military and government targets in the country, court records state. 

Harroun claims to have fought as part of joint FSA-JAN rebel units in roughly seven to 10 skirmishes with Assad troops during his time in Syria. 

In the course of those firefights, he claims to have shot 10 people and fired an RPG, according to the federal affidavit in the case. 

The intermingling of known terror groups like JAN within the ranks of Syria's opposition forces has been a key reason the White House and Pentagon have refused to directly supply weapons to rebel fighters. 

DOD and the Obama administration argue there is no guarantee that American arms sent to Syria will not end up in JAN arsenals or in the hands of other al Qaeda-linked groups in the region. 

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