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U.S. citizen charged with trying to aid al Qaeda to appear in court

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Shaker Masri's status hearing is scheduled for Monday morning
  • Masri faces two counts, including one involving weapons of mass destruction
  • He wanted to "participate in jihad" in Somalia or Afghanistan, feds say

(CNN) -- A U.S. citizen is scheduled to appear in court Monday after charges that he tried to provide material support to two terrorist organizations.

Shaker Masri is charged with trying to aid al Qaeda and al Shabaab, according to a criminal complaint. His status hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m.

Federal prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, also charged Masri with a charge relating to weapons of mass destruction, according to a criminal complaint.

Masri, 26, tried to violate a law that prohibits U.S. nationals "from using, threatening, attempting or conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States," the complaint said.

Masri is a U.S. citizen who lives in Chicago, and according to the complaint he has worked for a nonprofit organization that translates the Quran into English.

He has "advocated an extremist and violent interpretation of Islam" in conversations with a confidential source for federal investigators, according to the complaint. He told the source "that he wanted to participate in jihad" in Somalia or Afghanistan, it said.

Al Shabaab is an Islamic extremists group in Somalia that the U.S. government has designated a terrorist organization.

According to the complaint, Masri began espousing his increasingly violent views to an individual he befriended in early 2009. Masri allegedly began to actively plan a trip to Somalia where he hoped to join al Qaeda or al Shabaab and commit a suicide attack targeting "infidels."

Masri told the informant in recorded conversations that he hoped to become a martyr by wearing a suicide vest.

"I will wear one and I will not take it off," Masri is quoted in the complaint.

During numerous recorded conversations, Masri and a government informant watched jihadist videos and discussed obtaining money to buy guns and airplane tickets. The complaint says Masri told the informant he needed a new laptop, cell phone and between $7,000 and $10,000 for his journey.

Masri corresponded by telephone and online with a British woman whom he professed to love. He said he wanted to visit her on his way to train with terrorist organizations, according to the complaint. The woman repeatedly refused his plans to visit.

On July 29, Masri and the informant purchased two one-way tickets departing Wednesday and flying to Los Angeles, California, with plans to stop in Mexico and other countries on his way to Somalia. He was arrested following an 18-month investigation.

If convicted, Masri faces a possible sentence of up to 15 years in prison for each count.