Eric Harroun, U.S. Veteran, Accused Of Serving With Al-Qaeda in Syria

A veteran of the United States Army has been arrested on March 27 after allegedly serving with an Al-Qaeda group in Syria. Phoenix native Eric Harroun, 30, served in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2003 until a truck accident shortened his service. He is currently being charged on the basis of planning to launch a rocket-propelled grenade in Syria with the organization called the Al-Nusrah Front, also known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was arrested shortly after his arrival in Dulles International Airport, where he flew in from Turkey.

According to the documents charging Harroun, he apparently traveled to Turkey in November 2012 to help fight the rebels in Syria. He was able to find people who agreed to help him enter Syrian borders in January 2013. Upon his arrival, he connected with al-Nusra and supposedly contributed in clashes against pro-government forces.

Harroun has used social media to show his actions in Syria. He has posted pictures of him holding weapons with members of Al-Nusra, was spotted in videos alongside Syran rebels in Damascus, and even participated in an exclusive interview with FoxNews.com on March 11. In this interview, Harroun claims that al-Nusra welcomed him and that I "hate bad guys like Bashar [Assad]. I hate Iran, too. I am a freedom fighter." 

While he seems proud of his acts, prosecutors are less than impressed.  Federal officials think they have grounds to believe that Harroun :conspired to use a weapon of mass destruction."

This is a serious accusation which could result in a life sentence for Harroun.  As the law states, '“any national of the United States who, without lawful authority, uses, or threatens, attempts, or conspires to use, a weapon of mass destruction outside of the United States shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, and if death results, shall be punished by death, or by imprisonment for any term of years for life."

Reports of Harroun’s prosecution have been released at the same time that news broke claiming that the U.S. is training Syrian fighters in Jordan. These fighters are not members of the lead Syrian rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, but Washington stresses that is solely providing nonlethal aid.  When these reports came out on March 25, White House spokesman Josh Earnest stated that the United States has "provided some logistical nonlethal support that has also come in handy for the Syrian rebels who are, again, fighting a regime that is not hesitating to use the military might of that regime against its own people … That is something we’re going to continue to work to bring to an end."

What separates what the United States is actively doing to assist the Syrian rebels and Harroun’s fighting is the fact that he might have used a weapon of mass destruction.  Federal officials say that until his hearings start in earl April, Harroun will remain in custody.