The federal booking photo of Chicagoan Shaker Masri shows him smiling widely for the camera. It is a far different image than the one federal prosecutors portrayed in a criminal complaint against Masri that detailed alleged plots to become a global Jihadist and execute a suicide bomb attack on American soldiers.
The ABC7 I-Team on Wednesday obtained the first picture of Masri, whom authorities say was trying to aid al-Qaeda and the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab. He was arrested last month by federal counter-terrorism agents who say they had been covertly following the 26-year old Streeterville resident for nearly two years.
After determining that Mr. Masri had airplane tickets to leave Chicago in August to carry out his mission, federal authorities say they curbed a car he was driving 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.
Federal agents said they interrupted Masri's plan to destroy his computer prior to departing Chicago. He was ticketed on a Southwest Airlines flight, scheduled to leave in August 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 said.
In the criminal complaint, Masri was 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.
"He hoped to become a martyr by wearing a suicide vest," stated FBI agent Robert C. Parker in the affidavit. In a secretly-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.
"He's shocked," said Matt McQuade, federal public defender. "He's surprised by these charges and he indicates that he's done nothing wrong."
Masri continues to be held at the MCC in downtown Chicago.