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Chicago Resident Arrested for Attempting to Join Somali-Based Terrorist Group

Posted: August 5, 2010

An American citizen from Chicago is the latest American who attempted to travel to Somalia to fight with an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group and kill U.S. soldiers.


A criminal complaint unsealed in an Illinois federal court on August 4, 2010, charged Shaker Masri, 26, with attempting to provide material support to Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization based in Somalia, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.  Masri, who was arrested the previous day, faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted.


Court documents have detailed Masri's extensive plan to travel to Somalia to fight with Al Shabaab.  According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Masri, an American citizen born in Alabama, mapped various routes to Somalia, including ones through California, Mexico, Venezuela and Tanzania, to avoid detection by American federal authorities. 


Masri allegedly told a government source that he specifically searched for travel routes through countries that are not "with America in fighting terrorism."  He cautioned not to make the same mistakes as Zachary Chesser, an American citizen, who Masri claimed to personally know, arrested two weeks earlier for attempting to travel to Somalia to join Al Shabaab.


Throughout conversations with the government source, Masri stated that he hoped to become a suicide bomber.  "I wish to know how to the explosive belt is made," he said in July 2010.  "I will wear one and I will not take it off."  Masri also stated that he dreamed of detonating a suicide bomb next to a bus of American soldiers, according to the affidavit.


The affidavit has further alleged that Masri previously told the government source that "the United States and Europe were the real enemies of Islam because they were killing Muslims and supporting Israel with weapons and equipment."  Masri is part of the growing trend of American Muslim extremists charged with terror-related offenses who are motivated by a hatred of Israel.


Masri also allegedly followed the speeches and sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric living in Yemen who was designated by the U.S. Treasury in July 2010 a "key leader" for Al Qaeda.  Al-Awlaki's materials have inspired several other American Muslim extremists to carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S. and join terrorist groups overseas, including Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged gunman who killed 13 people and wounded 32 others at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas in November 2009.

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