A Chicago man was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 10 years in prison for plotting to attend a Somalia training camp with dreams of becoming a suicide bomber for al-Qaida and another terrorist group, al-Shabab.
Shaker Masri, 29, was sentenced two years after his arrest that relied heavily on an FBI informant. He pleaded guilty in July to trying to provide material support and resources to a terrorist organization. He declined to make a statement in court Tuesday and showed little emotion as U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman announced the sentence.
The Alabama-born Masri allegedly discussed the possibility of killing a busload of U.S. soldiers and about the "heavenly rewards one would receive for martyrdom," according to a government presentencing filing.
Investigators also found copies of extremist literature on Masri's computer, including Osama bin Ladin's 1996 manifesto, "The Declaration of War Against the Americans."
"Shaker Masri did not simply want to offer himself as a soldier to fight in the ranks of a terrorist militia engaged in a bloody civil war, he wanted to die killing others," the presentencing filing said. "Masri's goal was to be a tool of indiscriminate murder."
Masri also allegedly expressed admiration for Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who is believed to have inspired the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting rampage and the attempted bombing of a jetliner approaching Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. A U.S. drone attack killed al-Awlaki last year.
The defense entered a letter from the defendant's older brother to the judge that describes Masri as lively and kind, and "our neighborhood's favorite boy" as they were growing up.
"Older people used to love chatting with him, because he had a wild imagination and would tell fantastic stories," Anas Almasri wrote in the letter filed with the court. "He took genuine interest in people's stories and was always one."
The plea agreement set a recommended prison term of just under 10 years. Had the judge disagreed with that recommendation, the plea deal would have been voided.
Masri is one of several Chicago-area defendants facing terrorism-related charges who decided plead guilty.
Masri's attorney, Thomas A. Durkin, said in July, "Suffice to say, there comes a time when the government makes offers that are difficult to refuse in the light of the potential consequences."
Another man who changed his plea before making it to trial was Sami Samir Hassoun. The Lebanese immigrant pleaded guilty in April to placing a backpack he thought held a bomb near Chicago's Wrigley Field. He is due to be sentenced early next year.