MINNEAPOLIS: A Pakistani doctor and former Mayo Clinic research coordinator was arrested on Thursday in Minnesota on a terrorism charge, after prosecutors said he told paid FBI informants that he had pledged his allegiance to the militant Islamic State (IS) group and wanted to carry out lone wolf attacks in the United States.
Muhammad Masood, 28, was arrested at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport on Thursday by FBI agents and was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation.
Prosecutors say Masood was in the US on a work visa. They allege that starting in January, Masood made several statements to paid informants whom he believed were members of IS, pledging his allegiance to the group and its leader. He also allegedly expressed his desire to travel to Syria to fight for the group and a desire to carry out lone wolf attacks in the US.
At one point, Masood messaged an informant “there is so much I wanted to do here .. .lon wulf stuff you know ... but I realised I should be on the ground helping brothers sisters kids”, according to an FBI affidavit.
Prosecutors say he bought a plane ticket on Feb 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 then developed a plan for him to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to meet that informant, whom Masood believed would help him travel in a cargo ship into IS territory.
Masood was arrested on Thursday at the airport after he checked in for his flight to Los Angeles. His attorney, Manny Atwal, had no immediate comment on the matter.
Court documents do not 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 of 2018, first as a research trainee, 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 for the Mayo Clinic School of Continuous Professional Development in October 2018, according to an online calendar of the event.
Mayo Clinic spokeswoman Ginger Plumbo said Masood formerly worked at the medical centre, 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, later determined to be Masood, had posted messages on an encrypted social media platform, indicating an intention to support IS.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2020