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Chicago terrorist sentenced to 10 years in suicide bomber plot

December 11, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Shaker Masri plotted to attend a training camp in Somalia where he hoped to learn how to be a suicide bomber for Al Qaeda and its Somali ally, the Shabab.
Shaker Masri plotted to attend a training camp in Somalia where he hoped… (U.S. Marshals Service )

A man who had hoped to become a suicide bomber for radical Islamic groups was sentenced in Chicago to nearly 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to terrorism-related charges.

Shaker Masri, 29, pleaded guilty in July to charges of trying to provide material support and resources to a terrorist organization. He declined to make a statement in court Tuesday and showed little emotion as U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman announced the expected sentence.

Masri, an Alabama native, plotted to attend a training camp in 2010 in Somalia, where he hoped to learn how to be a suicide bomber for Al Qaeda and its Somali ally, the Shabab. The sentencing came two years after he was arrested in a case that relied on an FBI informant.

Coleman imposed the sentence of nine years and 10 months on Masri, who formerly lived on Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. The sentence was part of a plea agreement and Masri will be on supervised release when he completes his prison time.

“Shaker Masri wanted to take the lives of human beings -- including his own -- to wreak havoc and advance a terrorist agenda,” Gary S. Shapiro, acting U.S attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement. “Today’s sentence ensures that those who would lend support to terrorist organizations will be punished.”

According to prosecutors, Masri in 2010 told a government informant that he had decided to travel to Somalia to train to be a suicide bomber. Masri sought funds for the trip.

In the following weeks, Masri and the informant met several times to discuss travel plans that included going to Southern California, then to Mexico, then to Latin America and eventually on to East Africa. On July 29, 2010, Masri and the informant purchased airline tickets to travel from Chicago to Los Angeles, according to the prosecution.

On the afternoon of Aug. 3, 2010, Masri and the informant went to a Chicago liquor store where they were supposed to collect an alleged debt that could be used to finance their trip. The pair then went to another store to buy a new laptop. Masri was arrested leaving the second store.

According to prosecutors, Masri discussed the possibility of killing a busload of U.S. soldiers.

“Shaker Masri did not simply want to offer himself as a soldier to fight in the ranks of a terrorist militia engaged in a bloody civil war, he wanted to die killing others,” according to the government’s presentencing filing. “Masri's goal was to be a tool of indiscriminate murder.”

Masri backed the radical cleric Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen affiliated with radical Islamic groups, who was killed last year by a U.S. drone in Yemen.

Awlaki was believed to have inspired the Ft. Hood, Texas, shooting rampage and the attempted bombing of a jetliner approaching Detroit on Christmas Day, both in 2009.

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