A 19-year-old Colorado woman, arrested in April and accused of providing material support to Islamic insurgents, told FBI agents several times that she wanted to take part in holy war overseas, even though she knew it was illegal, recently released federal court records show.
FBI agents tried more than once to discourage Shannon Maureen Conley, who said she was intent on waging jihad in the Middle East before arresting her as she prepared to board a flight that she hoped would ultimately get her to Syria.
Conley, of Arvada, Colorado, is accused of providing material support to Islamist insurgents fighting the governments of Syria and Iraq, and of conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, officials said Wednesday.
According to a criminal complaint filed with U.S. District Court in Colorado, Conley, a Muslim convert, is a certified nurse's aide and underwent training at the U.S. Army Explorers (USAE) in Texas in February.
Met suitor online
She was arrested April 8 at Denver's airport, telling federal agents she planned to live with a suitor she met online, apparently a Tunisian man identified only as Y.M., who claimed to be fighting for an al-Qaida splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The militant group also known as ISIL or ISIS has recently overrun parts of Iraq and Syria.
The Sunni Muslim militant group is an al-Qaida offshoot that wants to re-create a medieval-style caliphate from the Mediterranean to the Gulf and deems Shi'ite Muslims to be heretics deserving death.
Conley and Y.M. met online last year.
Her case had been sealed until June 27 when a federal judge ordered most of the records made public.
Court documents said Conley and Y.M. shared a view of Islam "as requiring participation in violent jihad against any non-believers," and said they decided to get engaged.
Her “legitimate targets of attack” included military facilities, government employees and public officials, court documents stated.
Before traveling to Syria, the court papers said, Conley was to obtain additional skills and training to provide support to the insurgents, and to fight herself if deemed necessary.
Conley told investigators she planned to fly to Turkey and then travel to Syria to become a housewife and a nurse at Y.M.'s camp, providing medical services and training.
FBI agents became aware of Conley's growing interest in extremism in November 2013 after she started talking about terrorism with employees of a suburban Denver church who found her wandering around and taking notes on the layout of the campus, according to the court documents.
The church, Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, was the scene of a 2007 shooting in which a man killed two missionary workers.
In a second interview in December 2013, she told FBI agents she joined USAE to be trained in military tactics and firearms, and that she "intended to use that training to go overseas to wage Jihad," the affidavit said.
"When asked if she still wanted to carry out the plans, knowing they are illegal, Conley said that she does," it said.
She spoke with agents several times, telling them of her desire for jihad, the records state.
The agents said they tried openly to dissuade her, urging her instead to support Muslims through humanitarian efforts, which she told them was not an option.
Agents encouraged Conley's parents to get her to meet with elders at her mosque to find more moderate options. Her parents knew she had converted to Islam but were apparently unaware of her extremism, authorities said.
Her father told an agent in March that Conley and her suitor had asked for his blessing to marry and were surprised when he declined. Her father later found a one-way plane ticket to Turkey.
Four days before her arrest, she told agents “there was nothing they could do to change her mind and that she was still going," according to court documents.
If convicted, Conley faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Also Thursday, British media reported an ominous message delivered via Twitter.
An image of sealed containers, believed to be homemade bombs, was posted with the message: “So the UK is afraid I come back with the skills I gained.”
Reuters reported that the Twitter account belongs to 20-year-old Nasser Muthana, a purported British recruit to ISIL.
In a recruiting video for the Sunni militant group, Muthana goes by the name “Abu Muthanna Al Yemeni,” and calls on others to join: “Oh, you who believe, answer the call of Allah and his messenger when he calls you to what gives you life. [inaudible] says that what gives you life is jihad, and know by Allah that this is the land of jihad and the land of [inaudible]; the land of living. We have brothers from Bangladesh, from Iraq, from Cambodia, Australia, UK, we've nothing has gathered us accept to make Allah [inaudible]'s word the highest. That's all we've came for.”
The message is raising security concerns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and comes after a three week push by ISIL, now called the Islamic State, to takeover cities across Iraq and Syria.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.