After determining that Shaker Masri had airplane tickets to leave Chicago Wednesday morning to carry out his mission, federal authorities say they stopped Masri and arrested him.
One attack scenario was allegedly discussed by Masri when he saw several soldiers walking on a Chicago street. On a secretly-recorded undercover tape, Masri discussed blowing himself up next to a busload of American soldiers.
He was arrested Tuesday at 5:30 pm by federal agents who say they interrupted Masri's plan to destroy his computer prior to departing Chicago. He was ticketed on a Southwest Airlines flight, scheduled to leave Wednesday morning for Los Angeles-where he would then depart the country. Masri planned to travel by car to Mexico, then to Central America and finally east Africa, authorities say.
In a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday morning in Chicago, Masri is accused of two federal counts: that he tried to provide material support to al Qaeda and al Shabab and that he tried to provide material support in a concealed or disguised manner to fund the use of a WMD.
Masri is an American citizen born in Alabama, according to details in a 24-page FBI affidavit unsealed Wednesday.
"He hoped to become a martyr by wearing a suicide vest," stated FBI agent Robert C. Parker in the affidavit. In a covertly-recorded conversation with a federal informant, Masri is heard to state, "I will not stay idle...I wish to know how to the explosive belt is made...I will wear one and not take it off."
The informant was planted by the FBI in November, 2008 while Masri worked at a not-for-profit organization that provides English translation of the Koran. The men met in a book warehouse operated by the organization in west suburban Addison. The FBI source said that Masri had an "extremist and violent interpretation of the Koran."
The name of the organization is not named in the charges.
According to court records, in one recorded conversation with the undercover source Masri said only those aiming a rifle at the enemy are doing something for Islamic causes. The records state that Masri believed the US and Europe are the real enemies of Islam because they are killing Muslims and supporting Israel.
Masri faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted of the charges along with a $250,000 fine.
During a brief hearing in federal court, he told a judge that he could not afford a lawyer and a public defender was appointed to represent him.
"He's shocked," said Matt McQuade, federal public defender. "He's surprised by these charges and he indicates that he's done nothing wrong."
He is due back in court on Monday and is being held at the MCC in downtown Chicago.