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California man accused of trying to join terrorist group

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San Francisco: A man was charged with trying to join a terrorist group active in Syria after he expressed his love for the head of the group and tried to board a flight to the region, authorities said.

Adam Shafi, 22, pleaded not guilty yesterday to one count of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, according to court records.

Shafi in telephone calls with friends earlier this year expressed his love for the head of the terrorist group, al-Nusra Front, and said he was content dying with the group, according to an FBI affidavit in the case. The indictment against Shafi was unsealed on yesterday.

Authorities were alerted to Shafi after his father reported him missing in August 2014 to the US Embassy in Cairo during a family trip to Egypt and said his son may have been following extremist Islamic leaders online, according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Christopher Monika.

Shafi returned to his family and the United States, and the FBI put him under surveillance after learning he and a friend had traveled to Turkey, a common point of entry for foreign fighters trying to get into Syria, according to the FBI.

Shafi was stopped on June 30 at San Francisco International Airport just as he was about to board a flight to Turkey. He told FBI agents that he was a web developer who no longer wanted to live in the United States, but denied he was going to Turkey to cross into Syria to join a terrorist group, according to the affidavit. He was arrested a few days later and indicted by a grand jury earlier this month.

Shafi’s case has no connection to the Dec 2 attack in San Bernardino, California. A call and email message to his attorney, Joshua Dratel, were not immediately returned. No one picked up the phone at a phone listing for Shafi, who was in custody.