A 19-year-old Colorado woman was arrested in April as she was boarding a plane to Turkey. Her goal was to travel to Syria to meet an online suitor and join jihadist fighters, according to court documents unsealed Wednesday.
Shannon Maureen Conley told FBI agents after she was arrested April 8 at the Denver International Airport she planned to marry a Tunisian man she met online. The man claimed to be fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an extremist group with ties to al-Qaida and sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL.
The court documents identify the man only as “Y.M.”
Conley, who had recently converted to Islam, told the agents she planned to fly to "Turkey and wait there until associates of her suitor contacted her,” according to the documents obtained by KUSA News in Denver.
The Associated Press reports she has been charged with conspiring to help a foreign terrorist organization.
FBI agents first learned of Conley’s conversion and interest in jihad in November. That month she was seen taking notes outside of a suburban Denver church, Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada. After speaking with Conley, church officials became concerned about her actions and contacted local authorities. The church was the scene of a 2007 shooting incident in which a man killed two of the church’s missionary workers.
The court documents say that when one police detective asked her about her visits to the church’s property, she responded, “I hate those people," and "If they think I'm a terrorist, I'll give them something to think I am."
Agents and local police detectives questioned Conley several times after that and warned her of the possible consequences of her actions.
The FBI agents reportedly tried to convince her to speak to members of her mosque to find ways to support Muslims through humanitarian efforts.
"Conley felt that jihad is the only answer to correct the wrongs against the Muslim world," the documents say.
In December she told investigators that she had joined the U.S. Army Explorers program in order to be "trained in US military tactics and firearms,” and that she intended to use the training “to go overseas to wage jihad.”
Conley’s father grew concerned in March when her suitor contacted him and asked for his blessing in their marriage. He declined. A few days later he found a one-way ticket to Turkey and contacted the FBI.
Agents again contacted Conley to try and dissuade her from carrying out her plans. She told the agents "there was nothing they could do to change her mind and that she was still going.”
Four days later, she was arrested as she boarded her flight.
Conley remains in federal custody. If convicted of supporting a terrorist organization, she could face 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.