MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Pakistani doctor and former Mayo Clinic researcher has been indicted on one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization after authorities say he told paid FBI informants that he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and wanted to carry out lone wolf attacks in the U.S.
The indictment against Muhammad Masood, 28, was announced Friday by U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald. Masood was initially charged by criminal complaint and has been in custody since his March 19 arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Prosecutors say Masood was in the U.S. on a work visa. They allege in court documents that from January to March, Masood made several statements to paid informants — whom he believed were members of the Islamic State group — pledging his allegiance to the group and its leader. He also expressed a desire to travel to Syria to fight for IS and carry out lone wolf attacks in the U.S., they said.
Masood messaged an informant “there is so much I wanted to do here .. .lon wulf stuff you know ... but I realized I should be on the ground helping brothers sisters kids,” according to an FBI affidavit.
Prosecutors say Masood planned to leave for Amman, Jordan, and go on to Syria at the end of March, but on March 16 he had to change his travel plans because Jordan closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic. Masood and one of the informants then developed a plan for him to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to meet with that informant, whom Masood believed would help him travel in a cargo ship into Islamic State territory.
Masood's attorney didn't immediately return messages left Friday.
Court documents do not name the clinic where Masood worked. The Mayo Clinic has confirmed that Masood formerly worked at the medical center, but said he was not employed there when he was arrested. According to an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, Masood said in February that he was going to notify his employer that his last day of work would be March 17.
The affidavit said the FBI began investigating in January, after learning that someone, later determined to be Masood, had posted messages on an encrypted social media platform indicating an intent to support IS.
On Jan. 24, Masood contacted one of the informants on the encrypted platform and said he was a medical doctor with a Pakistani passport and wanted to travel to Syria, Iraq or northern Iran near Afghanistan “to fight on the front line as well as help the wounded brothers,” the affidavit said.
Roughly three dozen Minnesotans — mostly men from the state’s large Somali community — have left since 2007 to join al-Shabab in Somalia or militant groups in Syria, including the Islamic State group. Several others have been convicted on terrorism-related charges for plotting to join or provide support to those groups.
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