Man behind "South Park" threat arrested

WASHINGTON Wed Jul 21, 2010 7:00pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 20-year-old Virginia man, who posted warnings to the makers of animated TV show "South Park" in April, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of providing material support to an extremist group that has ties to al Qaeda, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The defendant, Zachary Adam Chesser, a U.S. citizen living in Fairfax County in Virginia, told federal agents that he attempted twice to travel to Somalia to join the al Shabaab group as a foreign fighter, the department said.

Chesser told U.S. agents his mother had received death threats after postings he made on the Internet about the "South Park" satirical animated television show.

The show on cable channel Comedy Central in April showed the Prophet Mohammad in a bear outfit. Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam as offensive.

The Internet postings showed a graphic picture of slain Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and warned "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker they risked meeting the same fate.

Chesser was prevented from boarding a flight from New York to Uganda on July 10. He admitted that he intended to travel from Uganda to Somalia, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court in Virginia.

Chesser said he had planned to join al Shabaab, but that he had a change of heart after learning about the deadly bombings in Uganda earlier this month for which the group has claimed responsibility. One American was among the 73 that were killed in the attack.

In 2008, the U.S. State Department designated al Shabaab as a foreign terrorist organization. U.S. officials have said many of the group's senior leaders are believed to have trained and fought with al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Chesser told agents he became interested in Islam in July of 2008. Chesser said he did not support acts of terrorism or violence, but that he wanted the United States to fail in its overseas military efforts.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (4)
shameOnCorps wrote:
Sounds like a real classy kinda guy.

Jul 22, 2010 6:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
shameOnCorps wrote:
That was sarcasm in case you couldn’t hear it!

Jul 22, 2010 6:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
seathanaich wrote:
Yes, he doesn’t “support” terrorism (though he was going to fly around the world to do precisely that), he only “wants” American military efforts to “fail”. What pathetic lying. At least have the balls to be honest about what you want if you are loony enough to convert to Islam.

Jul 22, 2010 6:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.