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Pakistani doctor arrested in Minnesota accused of terrorism

MINNEAPOLIS: A Pakistani doctor and former Mayo Clinic research coordinator was arrested Thursday in Minnesota on a charge of terrorism, after prosecutors said he told paid FBI informants that he had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State group and who wanted to carry out lone wolf attacks in the United States.

Muhammad Masood, 28, was arrested in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday by FBI agents and was charged with an attempt to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Prosecutors say Masood was in the United States on a work visa. They allege that beginning in January, Masood made several statements to the paid informants, who he believed were members of the Islamic State group, pledging their loyalty to the group and its leader. He also allegedly expressed his desire to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS and a desire to carry out lone wolf attacks in the US. USA

At one point, Masood texted an informant “There is so much I wanted to do here … so many things you know … but I realized that I should be on the ground helping brothers, sisters and children,” according to an FBI affidavit.

Prosecutors say Masood bought a plane ticket on February 21 to travel from Chicago to Amman, Jordan, and then planned to go to Syria from there. He had planned to leave at the end of March. But on March 16, he had to change his travel plans because Jordan closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic. Masood and one of the informants developed a plan for him to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to meet with that informant, who Masood believed would help him travel on a cargo ship to Islamic State territory.

Masood was arrested Thursday at the airport after checking in for his flight to Los Angeles. Her attorney, Manny Atwal, had no immediate comment.

Court documents don’t name the clinic where Masood worked, but a LinkedIn page for a man with the same name and work history says Masood has worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, since February 2018, first as an apprentice. , but has been a clinical research coordinator since May. A profile on researchgate.net says he has done research in cardiology; He was scheduled to present his research to the Mayo Clinic School of Continuing Professional Development in October 2018, according to an online calendar of the event.

Mayo Clinic spokeswoman Ginger Plumbo said Masood previously worked at the medical center, but “was not employed by Mayo Clinic at the time of his arrest.” According to an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, Masood said in February that he was going to notify his employer that his last day of work would be March 17.

The affidavit said the FBI began investigating in January, after learning that someone, who was later determined to be Masood, had posted messages on an encrypted social media platform indicating an intention to support ISIS.

On January 24, Masood contacted one of the informants on the encrypted platform and said that he was a doctor with a Pakistani passport and that he wanted to travel to Syria, Iraq or the northern region of Iran that extends to Afghanistan “to fight in the first online as well as helping injured brothers, “the affidavit said.

He explained that he wanted to make the trip because “he hates to smile at the passing kuffar so as not to make them suspicious.” The affidavit says that kuffar is an Arabic term that means non-believer or non-Muslim. Masood also reportedly told the informant that he wanted help getting to the front. When the informant said that Masood might have to kill people, Masood replied, “I want to kill and be killed … and kill and be killed.”

At one point, the informant arranged a video conference with the second informant, whom Masood believed to be a commander abroad who could investigate Masood to fight for ISIS. Masood allegedly told that informant that he wanted to be a combat and fighting medic, and that he had been ready for a while.

About three dozen Minnesotans, mostly men from the state’s large Somali community, have left Minnesota since 2007 to join al-Shabab in Somalia or militant groups in Syria, including the Islamic State group. Several others have been convicted of terrorism-related charges for conspiring to join or support those groups.

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