Colorado woman pleads guilty to conspiring to aid Islamist rebels

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 10, 2014 1:11 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A 19-year-old Colorado woman pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants who have seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Shannon Maureen Conley has been in custody since her arrest in April for allegedly planning to travel overseas and join the Sunni Muslim militant group.

Federal prosecutors charged the suburban Denver teen with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to Islamic State, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, is an al Qaeda offshoot that seeks to create a caliphate and has claimed responsibility for the beheadings of U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Conley, a convert to Islam, corresponded online with a purported Islamist fighter from Tunisia.

She told investigators that she intended to marry the man and join him and other Islamist fighters "to correct the wrongs against the Muslim world."

Conley, who is a certified nurse's aide, attended a camp run by the U.S. Army Explorers, a youth career exploration program, in Texas last year and planned to use that training to fight overseas and also to teach the Islamist rebels U.S. military tactics, the affidavit said.

Agents with a federal terrorism task force interviewed Conley several times to try to dissuade her, but she insisted that she wanted to travel overseas and wage war against infidels, the arrest 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 was arrested at Denver International Airport as she prepared to board a flight to Germany.

The charge of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist group carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)