For the second time in two weeks an American was arrested planning to travel to Somalia and engage in terrorism alongside al-Shabaab militants. Last week it was Virginia native Zachary Chesser, and today it was 26-year old Chicagoan Shaker Masri hoping to travel to kill American soldiers in the name of Islam.
According to federal authorities, the arrest of Masri followed an 18 month investigation during which Masri slowly laid out his plans to join the ranks of other Americans who have gone abroad to wage jihad against the West. And like those who went before him, Masri was radicalized in part by the sermons of American-born al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. So much so, in fact, that Masri expressed hopes "that Awlaki will become an al-Qaida leader."
Believing the United States and Europe to be enemies of Islam, during one conversation with a cooperating witness, Masri reportedly:
"ridiculed protestors advocating Palestinian related causes as ineffectual, stating that only those individuals who are aiming a rifle at the enemy are actually doing something for Islamic causes."
Although details on Masri's background are still forthcoming, authorities have confirmed that he was born in Alabama, raised abroad, and returned to the United States at the age of 18. At the time of his arrest, Masri was working for a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free English language translations of the Quran.
While working at the non-profit, Masri met the man who would eventually help law enforcement authorities arrest him—an unnamed cooperating witness. According to charging documents, Masri repeatedly solicited information about bomb making. In a recorded conversation with the informant, Masri is heard saying:
"I will not stay idle and I wish to know how to the explosive belt is mad and I will wear one and not take it off."
Despite this radical language, Masri was cautious about his activities. At one point, he told his compatriot to keep a low profile as they prepared to depart for Somalia, saying that Chesser was only arrested because he was not careful.
Appearing in a federal court, Masri was charged with, among other crimes, attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, and faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted of the charges.