A 26-year-old Chicago man was charged with attempting to provide material support to al Shabaab, an extremist Somalia-based group allied with al Qaeda, said authorities.
Shaker Masri, a US citizen who worked for a company that translated the Koran into English, was arrested on Tuesday hours before he was due to board a flight for California, with Somalia intended as his ultimate destination, according to an FBI affidavit.
Masri was arraigned on charges of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and attempting to provide material support through the use of a weapon of mass destruction. A US magistrate judge ordered him held without bond, Reuters reports.
Based on weeks of conversations with a paid FBI informant and tape-recordings of telephone calls, Masri was intent on gaining weapons training in Mexico and then wanted to become a suicide bomber to participate in a “jihad” to kill people he termed “infidels,” according to the affidavit.
The informant provided Masri money to buy plane tickets for both of them. They hatched elaborate plans on how to travel incognito to various countries en route to Somalia. Masri told the informant he wanted to strap on a suicide vest and keep it on until called upon to detonate it. Masri said he wanted to keep a low profile, having known a recently arrested Virginia man, Zachary Adam Chesser, though the FBI said there was no evidence they had been in contact.
In 2008, the US State Department designated al Shabaab as a foreign terrorist organization, describing it as a violent extremist group. US officials have said many of the group’s senior leaders are believed to have trained and fought with al Qaeda in Afghanistan. A subplot to Masri’s case was the love-sick telephone calls he engaged in with an unnamed young woman in London identified in court documents as “Individual B.”
“Do you know, like, how much this will affect me? Do you even realize?” the woman asks Masri in one conversation. According to affidavit, she complained of being misled by Masri. “It appeared to her that he never intended to build a life with her but, instead, at best, to marry her, get her pregnant and then ’emigrate for the sake of God,’ ‘to learn more about his (religion), and then disappear,’ never to return,” the document said.