>> Neil Vigdor, The New York Times
Published: 2020-03-20 17:30:38 BdST
The doctor, Muhammad Masood, 28, had been en route to Los Angeles to try to travel to the Middle East by cargo ship, the authorities said. He had initially bought a plane ticket from Chicago to Jordan, but officials said the flight was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Masood, who most recently worked as a research coordinator at a medical clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
The charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Masood spent the past two years in the United States on a temporary visa, known as a H-1B, that is issued to skilled workers from abroad, a criminal affidavit said.
Law enforcement officials said they began their investigation of Masood in January, after he posted on an encrypted social media platform asking for help making “hijrah,” the Arabic word for migration. The FBI said the word was widely used by those seeking to join the Islamic State group.
Masood then used the same social media platform to correspond with two informants about his plans, according to the affidavit.
He told one, “I want to fight on the front line as well as help the wounded brothers,” Carson Green, an FBI special agent, wrote in the affidavit.
Masood was kept in custody after a brief appearance in US District Court in Minneapolis on Thursday.
Manny Atwal, an assistant federal public defender who accompanied Masood in court, said in an email Thursday that he could not comment on the case.
In a message exchange, Masood told one of the informants that, as a doctor, “I want to help mujahedeen on the ground,” Green wrote in the affidavit. Masood also told the informant that he sometimes wanted to carry out a terrorist attack in the United States because not many fighters could “reach here to attack,” the affidavit said.
“Masood further explained that he will need weapons training when he joins ISIS, and he discussed the use of small drones that can be purchased online and turned into ‘istishhaddi’ (meaning martyr or suicide) drones for use in Syria or in America,” Green wrote.
Masood is due back in court Tuesday.
© 2020 New York Times News Service