Americans Joining al Qaeda in Growing Numbers

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan / AP

Current and former American soldiers joining terrorist groups has become a serious problem, according to an article in the Atlantic.

The article comes after Eric Harroun, a former Private First Class in the U.S Army, was charged in Virginia for joining the al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeda faction currently fighting in Syria.

According to the Atlantic:

He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and served in the Army's 568th Engineer Company between 2000 and 2003, achieving the rank of Private First Class. He was discharged with full disability pay after suffering a head injury in a truck accident. Harroun eventually began identifying himself as a Muslim, with his Facebook page containing the quote, "The only good Zionist is a dead Zionist."

The arrest comes after a report in February showed Americans joining al Qaeda at an alarming rate. Fifty-four percent of arrests relating to al Qaeda were of U.S. citizens and 36 percent were born in the United States, according to the report.

The majority of the terrorists received training in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the report noted. U.S. citizens that converted from Christianity to Islam comprised nearly a quarter of the terrorists studied.

The Atlantic also looked at other American soldiers joining terrorists groups before Harroun. Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 and wounded 28 at Fort Hood, exchanged emails with al Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki before his attack.

A similar incident occurred in Kuwait. Sergeant Hasan Akbar had served as a combat engineer in the 101st Airborne Division. Yet, in March 2003, five years after joining the Army, Akbar murdered two fellow soldiers and injured 14 others at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait, where members of his division had been due to travel to Iraq. Akbar threw grenades into tents containing troops and shot them as they attempted to escape. Akbar later said that he "did it because I'm Muslim. They were going to kill Muslims and rape Muslim women.