Muhammad Masoud was sentenced to 18 years in prison for attempting to join ISIS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Pakistani doctor who said he wanted to “fight on the front lines” for the Islamic State group was sentenced Friday to 18 years in a U.S. prison, federal prosecutors said.

Dr. Muhammad Masood, 31, of Rochester, Minnesota, pleaded guilty last year in US District Court in St. Paul to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Masood expressed to government informants his desire to carry out “lone wolf attacks” in the United States or to fight and serve as a combat medic for ISIS in the Middle East.

Mr. Masoud’s imprisonment will be followed by five years of supervised release under the sentence handed down by Judge Paul A. Magnuson of the US District Court.

Mr. Massoud, who was working at a research clinic in Rochester, was arrested in March 2020 in the Minneapolis-St. Prosecutors said the man carried out a terrorist attack at Paul Airport before he could board a flight to Los Angeles, where he intended to board a cargo ship to travel to the Middle East and join the terrorist organization.

In a phone interview on Friday, Jordan Kushner, Mr. Massoud’s lawyer, called the ruling “extremely harsh” given his client’s history of mental illness.

In court, Mr. Kushner alluded to a report from a psychiatrist who concluded that Mr. Massoud’s actions should be understood “not as an act of dedication to violent extremism and the goals of ISIS, but as a consequence of his mental illness and multiple stressors.” “.

But prosecutors asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, saying in court papers that Mr Masood “chose a path to become a soldier and combat medic for a terrorist organization” despite his successful career.

Prosecutors said the investigation into Mr. Masood began in January 2020 when authorities learned he had sought help on an encrypted social media platform about “immigration.” The term is commonly used in Islamic State circles to refer to travel to territory controlled by the group for the purpose of “violent jihad,” according to an affidavit prepared by the FBI.

Mr. Masood has been living in the US on an H-1B visa since 2018, and holds a medical license in his home country of Pakistan.

Prosecutors said he communicated via the encrypted social media platform with two government informants believed to be members of the Islamic State group who would help him join the group.

In conversations with informants, Mr. Masoud expressed “tired” of living in the United States and considered carrying out solo terrorist attacks, according to the affidavit.

Ultimately, Masoud said he belonged to the front line, where he could be a “combat medic…and also fight,” according to the affidavit. Prosecutors said he initially devised a plan to get to Syria by plane from Chicago to Jordan in March 2020, but that plan was upended when the coronavirus pandemic prompted Jordan to close its borders.

Instead, authorities said, Masood purchased a plane ticket from Minnesota to Los Angeles. On March 19, 2020, he was arrested by federal agents in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

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