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Posted at 7:19 PM ET, 07/21/2010

Alleged 'South Park' jihadist blogger arrested in terror case

By Michael Cavna

Zachary Adam Chesser, the 20-year-old Virginia man who earlier this year allegedly posted controversial blog entries about the creators of TV's "South Park," was arrested Wednesday on charges of providing material support to a Somali extremist group linked to al-Qaeda, the Justice Department said.

Chesser, a Fairfax resident, informed federal agents that he twice tried to fly to Somalia to join the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab and become a foreign fighter, the Justice Department said.

Chesser was detained July 10 in New York while trying to board a flight to Uganda, the department said.

"This case exposes the disturbing reality that extreme radicalization can happen anywhere, including Northern Virginia," U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said, according to the BBC.

"This young man is accused of seeking to join the Shabaab, a brutal terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda," MacBride said. "These allegations underscore the need for continued vigilance against homegrown terror threats."

Chesser reportedly is named in court papers as Abu Talhah al-Amrikee. Investigators say Chesser was a follower of the Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism said Chesser, a recent George Mason University student, wanted to start a Revolution Muslim chapter in Washington, D.C., according to a report.

Reports have linked Chesser to Revolution Muslim, an Islamic group that in April -- on the website -- posted images of the fatally wounded filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (a noted critic of Islam) that appeared with the caption: "Have Matt Stone and Trey Parker Forgotten This?"

The reference was to the creators of the animated Comedy Central show "South Park," which previously had satirized the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Comedy Central subsequently edited an episode of "South Park" that was to show Muhammad; the editing came a week after "South Park" seemed to depict Muhammad in a bear suit. Depictions of the religious leader are considered blasphemous to some Muslims. Stone and Parker said Comedy Central edited the show's speech about fear and intimidation.

Shortly after, Seattle artist Molly Norris circulated a cartoon to show her support for the "South Park" creators -- she even "dedicated" the cartoon to Parker and Stone -- but then retreated from the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" campaign that her cartoon spawned, telling Comic Riffs: "I made a cartoon that went viral but [this campaign] isn't really my thing."

Apparently bringing this full circle, a fatwa against Norris was issued this month by Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born Yemeni American cleric who investigators say counted Chesser among his followers. Writing in the new English-language al-Qaeda magazine Inspire, al-Awlaki named Norris among three artists and a handful of journalists in ordering execution hits because, he said, they had blasphemed Muhammad.

Comic Riffs's attempts to contact Chesser by phone prior to his being detained had been unsuccessful. Comedy Central had returned Comic Riffs's calls to decline comment.

UPDATE: Chesser's initial court appearance reportedly is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., according to The Post's Lisa de Moraes.

By Michael Cavna  | July 21, 2010; 7:19 PM ET
Categories:  General  | Tags:  Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Molly Norris, Revolution Muslim, South Park  
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