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Radical sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for deadly plot

Shaker Masri

Shaker Masri

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Updated: January 13, 2013 6:21AM

A Streeterville radical who planned to travel to Somalia to act as a suicide bomber for the al-Shabaab terrorist group was sentenced to nearly ten years in federal prison Tuesday.

And even after he gets out, the 29-year-old would-be jihadi Shaker Masri poses such a risk that he will have to remain under court supervision until he’s almost 60, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled.

Masri could have faced life in prison, but he agreed a plea deal this summer under which prosecutors asked for a 118 month sentence.

The bald, bearded Masri was arrested in 2010 at the end of an 18-month undercover operation, during which he discussed his plan to travel to Somalia via Mexico and central America with an FBI informant, court papers state.

Once he’d arrived, he planned to volunteer to join with a band of foreign fighters in al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda cell that controls much of Somalia’s south. But Masri was nabbed outside a liquor store before he left the U.S.

“I wish to know how the explosive belt was made,” Masri allegedly said to a friend wearing a wire. “I will wear one, and I will not take it off.”

And in a secretly recorded call with a woman in London that was detailed in a criminal complaint, Masri tried to explain why he chose ‘martyrdom’ through jihad.

“Life is not worth living for me. I cannot enjoy life. ... I have not enjoyed life since I was a child,” Masri allegedly said in the call. “I lost that innocence. I need to regain it back.”

Judge Coleman on Tuesday called that death wish “disturbing.”

Masri’s attorney Thomas Durkin had asked her to limit Masri’s court supervision to a “reasonable” ten years after his release, but the judge doubled that number, telling him, “With all due respect, 50 years is not that old ... you don’t have to be a youngster to be involved in something like (terrorism).”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Hammerman had called for the lengthy period of supervision, describing Masri as “dangerous” and noting that while Masri plead guilty to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group, he has yet to give up on the “underlying ideology” of violent jihad.

Masri, wearing an orange jail-issue jumpsuit, appeared agitated by those comments and made a brief outburst, but after consulting with his attorneys he declined to address the court prior to his sentencing.

He spent nearly two years in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center before he was placed into the general population at the downtown lockup earlier this year, and recently was allowed out of prison to visit his mother on her deathbed.

Though Masri is a U.S. citizen, the civil war in Syria is making it hard for him to stay in touch with most of his family, his attorneys said.

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