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Man indicted in North Carolina for trying to aid Syria rebel group

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - A Pakistani native accused of trying to aid a group deemed a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government has been indicted by a federal grand jury in North Carolina, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

Basit Javed Sheikh, a legal permanent resident of the United States who lived in Cary, North Carolina, told an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to travel to Syria to support a rebel Islamist group that had carried out violent attacks during that country's ongoing civil war, justice officials said.

When asked how he hoped to help Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S. secretary of state has identified as an alias for al Qaeda in Iraq, Sheikh said: "Logistics, media, (and) fight too, God willing."

Sheikh, 29, told the agent he was ready to be a martyr, justice officials said.

He also had expressed his support for Jabhat al-Nusra in postings made on Facebook since April, according to the arrest affidavit filed in his case.

Jabhat al-Nusra has claimed responsibility for nearly 600 attacks in Syria that have killed numerous innocent civilians, the justice department said.

Sheikh was arrested on November 2 at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport before he boarded a plane with a one-way ticket to Lebanon. Justice officials said he believed the agent with whom he had been communicating could help smuggle him into Syria.

Sheikh is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

He is being held in federal custody ahead of a trial after a judge at a detention hearing last week found him to be a flight risk and danger to the community, court records show.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Maureen Bavdek)

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