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Woman Charged In Denver With Seeking To Aid Islamic Extremists

A 19-year-old Denver-area woman has been charged with conspiring to help a foreign terrorist organization after she was arrested in April boarding a flight that would ultimately land her in Syria, where she hoped to wage jihad, according to newly unsealed court documents.

According to the FBI, Shannon Maureen Conley told FBI agents that "she wanted to use her American military training from the U.S. Army Explorers to start a holy war overseas," The Associated Press reports.

"Her 'legitimate targets of attack' included military facilities, government employees and public officials," according to the AP.

Conley, a Muslim convert who reportedly struck up an online relationship with a Tunisian man who claimed to be fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, was arrested at Denver International Airport on April 8.

According to the criminal complaint, authorities began investigating Conley in November after she reportedly was found wandering around the grounds at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Col., taking notes. She aroused suspicion because the church had been the scene of a multiple homicide in 2007.

ABC7 says:

"Church staff approached Conley and asked to see her notes, but she refused.

"Conley then became confrontational with FBC staff, citing her own Islamic religious views, church officials told federal investigators.

"Conley made spontaneous statements to church staff to the effect of, 'Why is the church worried about a terrorist attack?' and that terrorists are ' ... not allowed to kill aging adults and little children,' the complaint said.

The court documents say FBI agents tried twice to discourage Conley from her "mission" but were unsuccessful. On her arrest, she reportedly told agents that "she planned to live with a suitor she met online, apparently a Tunisian man who claimed to be fighting for [ISIS]," the AP says.

In an apparently unrelated case, Ashikim Khan, 23, of Texas pleaded guilty on Wednesday to providing "material support to terrorists" and faces up to 15 years in prison after admitting that he wanted to engage in violent jihad, Reuters reported, quoting U.S. prosecutors.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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