An American teenager was arrested on suspicion of trying to provide aid and support to the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant after reportedly striking up an online romance with a man who claimed membership in the radical terror group.
Shannon Maureen Conley, 19, of Arvada, Colorado, has been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, ABC News reported.
She was arrested at the Denver International Airport April 8 by FBI agents as she was reportedly preparing to board a plane to Germany, with connecting flights to locations in Turkey — just hours away from the Syrian border.
But before her arrest, Conley, whose court documents were unsealed Wednesday, was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force for around eight months and apparently met seven times with an FBI agent who attempted to sway her from supporting terrorism, according to the Denver Post.
During meetings with federal agents from late 2013 into early 2014, Conley, a Muslim convert, allegedly said she wanted to wage jihad in the Middle East after apparently building a romantic relationship with a man she met on the Internet last year — a 32-year-old Tunisian only referred to as “Y.M.” in court documents.
This individual, who is apparently associated with ISIS, urged her to fly to Syria to fight with him, so she reportedly bought a plane ticket to Turkey, which is when authorities made the decision to detain her.
The two apparently shared a view of the Islamic faith “as requiring participation in violent jihad against any non-believers,” Charisma News reported.
Conley, a registered nurse’s aide in Colorado, allegedly planned to help provide medical assistance at a Syrian camp.
While she reportedly asked for her parents’ blessing to marry the man, they declined to offer it. Still, authorities say she carried through with her plans to head overseas.
“When Conley told the suitor she wants to provide his camp with medical services and training, [her love interest] told her that was good because they needed more nurses,” an affidavit read. “Conley stated that she was aware that her plans were potentially illegal and she could possibly get arrested, and therefore she has no intention to return to the U.S.”
The teen first came to federal agents’ attention after a security guard and the pastor at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada reported that she was acting suspiciously on the church’s campus.
Considering that two missionaries were killed by a gunman at the church in 2007, Conley’s alleged behavior alarmed Faith Bible Chapel staffers. They said that she was wandering around and taking notes and that she became confrontational when they asked to see what she was writing, the Post reported.
And when investigators met with the teenager, she allegedly told them that she hated the church’s support for Israel and referred to U.S. military bases as “targets.” Additionally, she had joined the U.S. Army Explorers, a youth organization, and was purportedly planning to use the skills she learned to help Islamic radicals.
At one point, Conley reportedly told an FBI agent that she was prepared to “wage jihad in a year,” indicating that, though she would’t want to join in a fight, she’d be willing to do so if necessary.
Conley’s parents, John and Ana Conley, have not commented in-depth in the wake of the arrest, though her mother told CNN Wednesday: “It’s a difficult time for us.”
As a result of the charges against her, Conley could spend up to 15 year in prison and be fined $250,000, the Post reported.
(H/T: Charisma News)