CHICAGO — A 26-year-old Chicago man who told an FBI informant that he didn’t expect to reach the age of 30 was charged with plotting to go to Somalia to become a suicide bomber for al-Qaida and another linked terror group, federal prosecutors alleged in court documents unsealed Wednesday.
During a brief hearing, prosecutors told a judge that Shaker Masri was taken into custody and charged Tuesday evening with trying to aid al-Qaida and al-Shabaab, a violent extremist group in Somalia, and attempting to provide support through the use of a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States.
Masri, who faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for each charge, was ordered to remain in custody after prosecutors called him a flight risk and a danger to the community. He told the judge he was a U.S. citizen, and court documents said he was born in Alabama and spent years overseas before returning to the United States when he was 18.
In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he was living in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood and was arrested without incident in the suburb of Countryside. The office had no further details about his background.
According to court documents, Masri started talking to a confidential FBI informant of his plans a little more than two weeks ago, asking that he help him find a job to earn money for the Middle East, as well as come up with money to buy guns.
In the court documents, prosecutors alleged that Masri told the informant that “he did not expect to reach the age of 30” and that he “hoped to become a martyr by wearing a suicide vest.”
Masri’s attorney, Matthew McQuaid, said he was not prepared to comment because he had not yet seen any evidence or even had a chance to speak with Masri extensively about the charges.
In court papers, Masri explained to the informant about the need to keep a low profile until leaving the United States because of a recent arrest in Virginia of a man who also wanted to travel to Somalia to fight for al-Shabaab, which was designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group in 2008. In the documents, prosecutors said Masri claimed to know the Virginia man but the papers do not include his name.
Prosecutors also said in the documents that at one time Masri was employed by a nonprofit group that provided free English language translations of the Quran in the United States. No other details were immediately available about Masri and the charges.