Muhammad Masood, a Pakistani doctor and former Mayo Clinic research coordinator, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for attempting to join the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group and expressing interest in carrying out attacks on U.S. soil. Masood, 31, pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Prosecutors revealed that he tried to travel from the U.S. to Syria via Jordan in 2020 but was unsuccessful. He then agreed to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, intending to meet someone who would help him travel by cargo ship to IS territory. However, FBI agents arrested him at the Minneapolis airport on March 19, 2020, before he could board his flight.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson handed down the 18-year sentence in St. Paul. Prosecutors stated that Masood, who was in the U.S. on a work visa, made several statements to paid informants, whom he believed were IS members, pledging his allegiance to the group and expressing a desire to carry out “lone wolf” attacks in the U.S. An FBI affidavit revealed that agents began investigating Masood in 2020 after discovering his messages on an encrypted social media platform, indicating his intent to support IS. Masood contacted one of the informants on the platform, claiming to be a medical doctor with a Pakistani passport, and expressed his desire to travel to Syria, Iraq, or northern Iran near Afghanistan to fight and provide medical assistance to IS fighters.
The Mayo Clinic confirmed that Masood had previously worked at its medical center in Rochester, Minnesota, but he was not employed there at the time of his arrest. It is worth noting that Minnesota has been a recruiting ground for terrorist groups, with approximately three dozen individuals, mostly from the state’s Somali community, leaving since 2007 to join al-Shabab, al-Qaida’s affiliate in East Africa, or militant groups in Syria, including IS.
The sentencing of Muhammad Masood highlights the ongoing threat posed by individuals seeking to support terrorist organizations and carry out attacks on U.S. soil. Despite the loss of territory in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group still maintains a significant number of members, with experts estimating 5,000 to 7,000 fighters in its former stronghold.