A doctor in Pakistan and ex-Mayo Clinic researcher was indicted on federal charges last week for giving support to a terrorist group after the told informants that he intended to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States. (NYPost.com)
Muhammad Masood, 28, was charged last week for alleged terrorist ties to the Islamic State. He has been in federal custody since he was placed under arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on March 20.
Told Federal Informants He Was Working for a Jihadi Group
Federal prosecutors stated that Masood told paid informants that he was working for a jihadi group in the Islamic State. The Islamic State still controls a large amount of territory in Iraq and Syria. Prosecutors said he was in the United States on a work visa.
From January to March 2020, Masood made several incriminating statements to paid informants he thought were paid informants of the Islamic State. He said he wanted to fight for the jihadi group in Syria and carry out terrorist attacks in the US, according to court documents.
In one conversation, Masood told an informant that there is a lot he wanted to do in the US along the line of lone-wolf attacks. But he said he knew he should be on the ground helping ‘brothers, sisters, kids.’
Masood Planned to Travel to Syria
Federal prosecutors said the alleged terrorist was going to travel to Syria at the end of March through Amman, Jordan. But he was forced to change his travel plans after Jordan shut its borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, he came up with a scheme to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and then travel to Syria on a cargo ship.
Masood was arrested last week at the airport after he checked in for his flight to Los Angeles.
While court documents dot not say where Masood was employed, a Linkedin page for a man with the same name and work history says he worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, since February 2018. He first worked as a research trainee but has been a clinical research coordinator since May 2018.
A profile on researchgate.net states that he did research in cardiology. He was set to prevent his research for the Mayo Clinic School of Continuous Professional Development in October.
The Mayo Clinic confirmed that Masood worked as a researcher there but was not working there at the time of his arrest.
FBI Began Investigating Him in January 2020
The federal affidavit stated that the FBI started to investigate him in January after finding out that Masood was posting messages on an encrypted social media platform stating that he was a supporter of ISIS. (APnews.com)
On Jan. 24, Massood contacted one of the federal informants on the platform and said he was a doctor with a Pakistani passport and wanted to go to Syria, Iraq or the northern region of Afghanistan to fight on the front line and provide medical help to ‘the wounded brothers. ‘
He said that he wanted to take the trip and help ISIS because he ‘hates smiling at the passing kuffar just to not make them suspicious.’ The affidavit said ‘kuffar’ is an Arabic term that means nonbeliever.
Masood also allegedly told the informant that he needed help to get to the front lines. When the informant said that Masood may have to kill people, he said that he wanted to kill and get killed.
He also allegedly told one of the informants that he wanted to attack the enemy while he was behind enemy lines in the United States. He said, “I wonder if I will miss the opportunity of attacking the enemy when I was in the middle of it.”
Masood quite his job at the Mayo Clinic, auctioned off all his personal belongings and bought a plane ticket on Feb. 21 from Chicago to Amman, and then planned to travel to Syria. (Sentinelassam.com)
Video Conference Set Up With Second Informant
The informant eventually set up a video conference with another informant. Masood thought he was an overseas commander who could get him to fight for ISIS. Masood told the informant that he wanted to work as a combat medic and fight.
Approximately 36 Muslim men from Minnesota have left the state since 2007 to join militant groups in Syria, such as the Islamic State group. Several others in Minnesota have been convicted on terrorist charges for plotting to join or give support to these terrorist groups.
Masood Case Indicates Need to Reassess Security Vetting Protocols
Todd Bensman, who works for the research group Center for Immigration Studies, said this case is a good reason to reassess currency security vetting protocols in countries that are not on the travel restriction list. This would ensure that the worst security threats are not imported among engineers, doctors, and other skilled professionals who obtain H-1B visas to leave countries that are a national security concern.