Washington: A Pakistani doctor who the FBI said was intent on joining the Islamic State terror group, either on the battlefield in Syria or as a “lone wolf ” in the US, was arrested before boarding a flight at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport. The doctor, Muhammad Masood, 28, had been en route to Los Angeles to try to travel to West Asia by cargo ship, authorities said. He had initially bought a plane ticket from Chicago to Jordan, but officials said the flight was cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Masood, who most recently worked as a research coordinator at a medical clinic in Minnesota was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation. The charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Masood spent the past two years in the US 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 IS. Masood then used the same 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. Manny Atwal, an assistant federal public defender, said that he could not comment on the case. In a message, Masood told one of the informants that, as a doctor, “I want to help on the ground,” Green wrote in the affidavit.