Shaker Masri was arrested Tuesday evening and charged by federal prosecutors on Wednesday with knowingly intending to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States.
Authorities said Masri told an FBI informant that he planned to go to Somalia and help al-Qaida, and asked the informant for money to help buy guns once they got there. He also told the informant that he hoped to become a martyr by wearing a suicide vest, the criminal complaint states.
Last Saturday, Masri was walking with the source when they saw a group of four soldiers in military dress uniform, according to the complaint.
Masri told the source he wished he could walk up to the four and blow himself up. When the source asked Masri why he wanted to blow himself up to kill only four targets, Masri agreed, saying it would be better, for example, if there were a bus full of soldiers he could blow, the complaint states.
Counterterrorism agents said they have been following the Streeterville man for 18 months and arrested him hours before he was scheduled to board a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles and then ultimately head out of the country.
Masri said he is a U.S. citizen who was born in Alabama but raised abroad.
He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of each charge and a $250,000 fine, but he told the magistrate he could not afford a lawyer. He is to appear in court again next Monday.
The charges come five months after a Chicago cab driver was charged with trying to provide funds to al-Qaida.