A Colorado teen has been arrested and charged with aiding a terrorist organization notorious for crucifixions and beheadings.
The feds say Shannon Maureen Conley, a 19-year-old nurse’s aide, was busted at the airport heading to Syria to marry an ISIS fighter and “assist Jihadi fighters in whatever manner is needed.”
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, aka ISIL or ISIS, is an al-Qaeda spinoff that has conquered a large portion of Syria and Iraq, amassing a fortune in cash and a massive arsenal of weapons and equipment.
She’s charged with provided material support to a terrorist organization.
Here’s what you should know about Conley and her alleged plans to fight for America’s enemy.
1. The Feds Called Her in Because She Scared Christian Churchgoers
According to a federal criminal complaint (scroll down to read the full document), in October 2013 Conley visited the Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colorado, on several Sundays, dressed in traditional Muslim attire. “Conley was observed by staff on the FBC campus wandering around and taking notes in a notebook that appeared to FBC staff to be consistent with taking notes of various locations and the layout of the campus.”
The church was the scene of a fatal shooting in 2007.
When confronted by members of the church, she responded with comments such as “Why is the church worried about a terrorist attack?” and “[terrorists are] not allowed to kill aging adults and little children.”
In November of that year, local police and a federal agent met her for questioning. She told them she initially visited the church to learn about other faiths but objected to the church’s support of Israel. When church members started following her around, she reasoned, “If they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am.” So she started bringing a notebook as if she were mapping out the church’s campus for an attack.
When grilled about jihad and her opinion on harming innocent victims, she told her interrogators that if women, children and clergy are killed on a military base, that’s acceptable because they shouldn’t have been at a legitimate “target.”
She later told agents, when prompted, that other legitimate targets include government facilities and personnel, public officials and law enforcement.
2. She Joined the Army Explorers to Learn U.S. Military Tactics
According to federal authorities, Conley told agents that she joined the U.S. Army Explorers to gain training in American military tactics, which she would later use to wage jihad and train jihadi fighters overseas.
The US Army Explorers is a nonprofit organization aimed at exposing young men and women between the ages of 13 and 20 to potential career options within the military. Cadets receive similar physical fitness and drill training to that of an actual soldier. According to its website, cadets also learn first aid, navigation, radio communications and field exercises.
Conley said she previously considered joining the American military, but unlike the real Army, the Explorers allowed her to dress in traditional Muslim garb, and there was not threat of being deployed to combat.
Conley, who’s licensed as a certified nurse’s aide in Colorado, said if she were not allowed to fight for jihad she would use her medical training and “assist Jihadi fighters in whatever manner is needed,” according to the complaint.
Conley also had access to firearms at her parents’ home and knew how to use them.
3. She Was Engaged to Marry an ‘ISIS Fighter’
In her “research” on Islam — all of which included Googling on her laptop computer — Conley became convinced she must marry young.
Sometime around March 2014 she met a suitor online. According to her father, John, the suitor was a 32-year-old Tunisian who claimed to be an ISIS fighter in Syria.
John once walked in on his daughter Skypeing with the suitor, who seized the opportunity to request John’s blessing to marry Conley and ask that she be sent to Syria as soon as possible. John said no.
Conley’s parents sat her down an made it clear they did not support the engagement and would not fund her trip overseas. She said she was going anyway. John said he found her plane ticket to Turkey on his desk.
Above you can find a news report about Conley’s online romance.
4. She Was Busted at the Denver Airport, Heading to Syria Via Turkey
In January 2014 Conley told agents she had a plan to travel to Iraq via Morocco. In Iraq, she would meet a friend of a friend, who would connect her to a jihadi training camp. Agents say she had no interest in humanitarian work and was only interested in training for violence.
In March 2013, grilled by agents on whether she planned to travel to Syria, Conley dodged the question but claimed she knew an ISIS fighter there. At yet another interview the next month, agents warned her that travel with intent to wage jihad could get her arrested.
According to the criminal complaint, she said she’d “rather be in prison than do nothing.”
She later divulged that the aforementioned ISIS fighter was her suitor, and she planned to soon fly to be with him in Syria, where they would live together near the Turkish border. Agents got Conley to confirm that she knew ISIS is designated by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization.
Agents searched flight records and learned Conley was booked to fly out of Denver on April 8 — to Germany, then to Turkey, and then catching a shorter flight in Turkey to a region three hours from the Syrian border.
Agents arrested her at the Denver International Airport as she was about to board her flight.
5. She’s the Youngest of Four Daughters
According to the Facebook page of Ana Conley, Shannon’s mother, Shannon is the youngest of four daughters in the family. She is 12 years younger than the eldest daughter.
Conley’s parents have spoken to the FBI multiple times in the past year, telling them about her 32-year-old Tunisian “suitor” fighting for ISIS in Syria.
The complaint says her father, John Conley, told agents that Jihad was explained to him as, “struggles to help the oppressed or the poor.” They also revealed that Shannon and a friend had been practicing with the family’s rifles.
— Jeremy Moore (@JeremyDanMoore) July 3, 2014
Her parents were long aware of her conversion to Islam but were slow to realize her transition to more radical beliefs.
After being tipped off by agents, the parents grilled Conley in March 2014 and learned the nature of her intentions. They reported to agents that they were unable to reason with her.
Speaking to the Denver Fox affiliate, neighbors chronicled her conversion to Muslim traditional dress saying “I would see her in shorts and then all of a sudden she started wearing those clothes maybe six months after they moved here.” They describe her as a quiet and introverted young woman always, “walking her her head down.”
Here’s the full criminal complaint, via KDVR: