Cary man pleads guilty to aiding terrorists in Syrian civil war

— A Cary man pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to a charge of trying to provide support to the Iraqi arm of al-Qaida by fighting in Syria‘s civil war.

Basit Javed Sheikh, 29, of 300 Swansboro Drive, was arrested at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in November 2013, before he could board a plane to Canada, with a final destination of Lebanon, according to federal court documents.

An indictment against him was unsealed three days later.

Sheikh is Pakistan native, and in his plea he acknowledged that he faced deportation from the United States. If he‘s not removed from the country, Sheikh faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

According to the indictment, Sheikh was arranging to provide personnel to al-Nusrah Front, an Iraqi group affiliated with al-Qaida that has claimed responsibility for hundreds of attacks in Syria.

An affidavit of an FBI agent states that Sheikh repeatedly posted on his Facebook page links to news stories and videos backing a jihad in Syria. He also discussed with a government informant going to Syria to fight in that country‘s civil war and that he was ready to be a “martyr,” according to the affidavit.

Believing the government informant could help smuggle him from Lebanon to Syria, authorities say, he purchased a one-way ticket to Lebanon.

An arrest report indicates Sheikh works at a local post office, but more information wasn‘t available Monday.

The case isn‘t the first of its kind in North Carolina.

In 2009, federal agents broke up a terror cell based in Johnston County that authorities said was plotting terrorist attacks on the Marine base in Quantico, Va., and overseas targets.

Seven men are in prison after being convicted of various crimes, and an eighth is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan.