The arrest of a 19 year-old Colorado woman in April for attempting to travel to Syria to aid the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), demonstrates the increased allure of ISIS and the Syria conflict for Americans looking to join terror groups abroad. The arrest was made public today.
The woman, Shannon Maureen Conley, was arrested on April 8, 2014, at Denver International Airport, where she was attempting to board a flight to Germany en route to Iraq. According to court documents, Conley was apparently hoping to meet and marry an ISIS member with whom she had been communicating online. She then allegedly hoped to use her skills as a nurse on behalf of ISIS, or to fight with them “if necessary.”
Conley reportedly had attempted to receive U.S. military training that she hoped to use to aid ISIS by joining the U.S. Army Explorers, a program that exposes youth to military career opportunities and occupational skills. In conversations with FBI agents, she allegedly referred to U.S. military bases as “targets.”
Conley appears to have been influenced by online terrorist propaganda, communicated with alleged ISIS members on the Internet and, according to court documents, allegedly possessed a series of “materials about jihad and Al-Qaeda” including “a number of CD/DVDs labeled ‘Anwar al-Awlaki.’”
Conley went by the name Halima on her Facebook profile, where she described her job as “Slave of Allah.”
Conley is one of 5 U.S. citizens arrested this year on terrorism charges, 4 of whom were charged with attempting to join terrorist organizations in Syria – Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas and Nicholas Teausant of California also allegedly attempted to join ISIS, while Mohammad Hassan Hamdan of Michigan allegedly attempted to join Hezbollah. Conley, Wolfe and Teausant are also all converts to Islam.
Intelligence estimates indicate that at least 100 Americans have travelled to join the Syria conflict since it began in 2011. Altogether, between 12,000 and 15,000 foreign fighters are believed to have joined the conflict.
Court documents indicate that Conley also exhibited threatening behavior at home, drawing diagrams of and threatening a local church, which she claimed to particularly hate for its support of Israel.
She reportedly posted a link to her Facebook page from “Acknowledge Apartheid Exists” about a Palestinian farmer who was supposedly shot by Israeli troops.
Although there have been significant terror threats from a number of women such as Colleen LaRose (“Jihad Jane”), women are arrested on terror charges far less often than men. The ADL has documented 13 female citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. arrested on terrorism charges since 2002.