The Edge of Terrorism
|Jim Kouri||July 31st 2012|
A homegrown, radical Islamist from Chicago pleaded guilty on Monday to planning a trip to Somalia in 2010 specifically to help a terrorist organization in its fight against Somali government forces. He also toyed with the idea of going to Afghanistan to kill American soldiers.
Shaker Masri pleaded guilty to intentionally trying to help provide material support to Al Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, knowing that the group was engaged in international terrorism. The guilty plea resolves all charges that have been pending since Masri was arrested as he was preparing to leave the United States in August 2010.
The 28-year-old U.S. citizen lived in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, and will remain in federal custody awaiting sentencing, which U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman scheduled for Oct. 16, 2012. Masri’s plea agreement calls for a sentence of nine years and 10 months. Attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization also carries a $250,000 fine in addition to the prison time.
According to records, on July 19, 2010, Masri told an associate, who at the time was a government cooperating source (CS), that he had decided to travel abroad to engage in a jihadist conflict as a combatant. Masri trusted the associate and confided that he would either travel to Somalia to aid Al Shabaab or to Afghanistan to aid al-Qaeda in fighting and killing members of the American-led forces.
Masri told the CS that he decided to travel to Somalia and assured the cooperating source (CS) that he was determined to join a jihadist conflict and only needed funds to facilitate his plan. The CS responded that he had money to fund Masri’s proposed travel, but only if he could join Masri in traveling to Somalia to join Al Shabaab. Masri agreed to the arrangement.
On July 23 and 28, 2010, Masri and the CS met to discuss their travel plans and Masri suggested that, to avoid suspicion, they should avoid traveling directly towards East Africa. Rather, Masri suggested that they travel to southern California, where they could cross the U.S. border into Mexico.
From Mexico, Masri explained that they could travel through a Latin American country that did not cooperate with United States’ law enforcement before heading to East Africa. When asked by the CS how they would link up with Al Shabaab once in Somalia, Masri assured the CS that the area of southern Somalia where they would be traveling was controlled exclusively by Al Shabaab, an ally of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
In addition, Masri assured the CS that, after arriving in Somalia, he expected they would be placed with a faction of Al Shabaab’s militia comprised of foreign fighters. Masri admitted in his plea that he knew that Al Shabaab was a terrorist organization that had engaged in violent activity. He was also aware that Al Shabaab’s leadership had issued statements advocating terrorism, and he was aware that the United States had designated Al Shabaab a foreign terrorist organization.
Masri told the CS that before they left, he needed to discard his laptop and purchase a new computer. Masri explained that he needed to destroy his computer because it contained incriminating information, and the CS agreed to help.
However, on Aug. 3, 2010, when Masri and the CS met to finalize preparations for their impending journey to Somalia, they first went to a liquor store where the CS said he needed to collect a debt that could be used to finance their trip. After supposedly obtaining $18,000 from the liquor store, Masri and the CS traveled to a retail store where they bought a new laptop computer. As they left the store, Masri was arrested by FBI agents.
Jim Kouri, is the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for The Examiner, from where this article is adapted.