Mayo Clinic Researcher Tried To Wage Holy War for IS Group

August 17, 2022Carl Prine
Muhammad Masood, 30, a licensed medical doctor in Pakistan and a research coordinator for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, pleaded guilty on Aug. 16, 2022, to trying to provide material support to the Islamic State terrorist group. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.

Muhammad Masood, 30, a licensed medical doctor in Pakistan and a research coordinator for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, pleaded guilty on Aug. 16, 2022, to trying to provide material support to the Islamic State terrorist group. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.

A former researcher at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic has pleaded guilty to trying to wage holy war for Syrian terrorists.

Appearing before US District Judge Paul A. Magnuson in Minneapolis on Wednesday, Aug. 16, Muhammad Masood pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State group.

A sentencing date hasn’t been slated, but the physician from Pakistan faces up to 20 years behind bars.

Masood, 30, remains incarcerated without bond at the Sherburne County Jail. His attorney did not respond to Coffee or Die Magazine's messages seeking comment. 

A rebel fighter aims his heavy machine gun mounted on the back of a pickup truck outside the Aleppo headquarters of Syria’s Islamic State group on Jan. 8, 2014. Photo by Mohammed Wesam/AFP/Getty Images.

While living in Rochester in early 2020, Masood told a pair of the FBI’s confidential informants that he wanted to pledge “bayat” to the IS group, promising his support to the jihadi terrorist organization, according to his indictment.

On Feb. 21, 2020, he purchased a plane ticket from Chicago to Amman, but Jordanian officials closed the Middle Eastern country’s borders because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and Masood realized he wouldn’t be able to slip into Syria.

So he arranged to fly to Los Angeles, where one of the informants told Masood he could book passage on a cargo ship and arrive in Syria months later. But FBI agents swooped into Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport on March 19, 2020, before Masood could board his Southwest flight to California.

What he didn’t know was that he’d been on the FBI’s radar for nearly two months as “BB,” a man captured on an encrypted audio file asking to make “hijra” into IS-controlled Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan to fight a holy war on the front lines.

At the time, Masood had been living in Rochester for two years on an H-1B visa, a program reserved for people with special skills, like those in medicine. 

Muhammad Masood, 30, a licensed medical doctor in Pakistan, was working as a research coordinator at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, when he began plotting to join the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria. On Aug. 16, 2022, he pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to the IS group. US Department of Justice photo.

“Sometimes I want to attack enemy when I am behind enemy lines itself,” Masood told an informant. “Not many people can even reach here to attack.”

He later expressed concern that, if he jetted off to Syria, he’d “miss the opportunity of attacking the enemy when I was in the middle of it.” He told the informant he “hated smiling at the passing kuffar,” or unbeliever, which he did “just to not make them suspicious.”

“I cannot tolerate it anymore,” Masood said.

He wanted to get to ISIS by February because his parents were due to return to his home in April, and they would forbid him to join a terrorist organization.

They’d already made him trim his beard. 

An armed jihadi stands next to the wreckage of a Syrian government forces aircraft that was shot down by militants of the Islamic State group over the Syrian town of Raqa on Sept. 16, 2014. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images.

“I want to kill and get killed...and kill and get killed, and again and again,” Masood told one of the informants.

In the meantime, Masood began prepping for his job interview with the IS group. He bought a hunting vest, which he conceded to one of the informants might make him look suspicious on his journey to Syria.

He sold all his household goods and told his landlord he was leaving. He gave the Mayo Clinic notice he was quitting his job.

On the day the FBI arrested him, it only took 11 minutes before the magistrate before Masood was ordered to be detained without bail until his trial.

A still from a propaganda video released by the Islamic State group media office in Iraq’s Nineveh province on July 20, 2016, shows Rachid Kassim, a French member of the terrorist organization, speaking in French to the camera from an undisclosed location before beheading two men. Image via AFP/Getty Images.

In the months after that hearing, questions began to mount about Masood’s sanity.

His attorney, Jordan S. Kushner, doubted whether his client could even understand the charges he was facing. A forensic evaluation was performed, but it remains sealed in the court files, along with jailhouse letters Masood apparently wrote to the judge.

Kushner lodged notice that he was going to try an insanity defense, but Masood was later ruled competent enough to stand trial.

Issued on June 17, 2022, that magistrate's order also remains sealed.

Two months later, Masood pleaded guilty.

Read Next: Prison for Chicago Truck Driver Tied to Syrian Terrorists

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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