A US citizen arrested in 2010 has plead guilty to charges that he attempted to join the Al-Shabaab jihadist movement in Somalia and raised funds to support the group.
Shaker Masri, a 28 year old Chicago resident, was arrested in 2010 just hours before leaving for Somalia where he planned on engaging in Jihad by joining the Al-Shabaab movement, a Somali based cell of Al-Qaeda.
Masri initially faced 15 years in prison but after a plea deal, he may serve less than 10 years for financially supporting a terrorist group. He will be officially sentenced on 16 October.
Masri’s guilty plea comes just after the State Department released its annual country reports on terrorism for 2011. The reports, released on Tuesday, point to the growing presence of terrorism in North and East Africa, and express special concerns about Al-Qaeda and its formal, non- formal and alleged affiliates like al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and a number of loosely knit militant groups in the Sinai peninsula in Egypt.
The report was released just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is starting an eleven day African tour that includes Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa.
A press statement issued by the State Department during the visit stated that Secretary Clinton would emphasise U.S. policy points as outlined in the Presidential Policy Directive, including the strengthening of democratic institutions, economic growth, security and development.
The statement also indicates the great importance of security in the region for the US, particularly in Somalia.
Clinton will meet with Somalian President Sheikh Sharif and other signatories to the “Roadmap to End the Transition in Somalia” during her visit.
In 2011, the Committee on Homeland Security issued an investigative report entitled, “Al- Shabaab: Recruitment and Radicalization within the Muslim American Community and the Threat to the Homeland.”
The findings of the committee stated that counterterrorism experts fear that American Al- Shabaab fighters would be trained by AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) to conduct bombings and attacks against the US.