July 19, 2013

Indictment: Florida Man Tried to Join al Qaeda
UPDATED: Desecrated Christian Religious Statues

Shelton Thomas Bell mug shot.jpg

He tried to find his way to Yemen where he wanted to make participate in jihad. I don't understand why that's a crime. Doesn't jihad just mean peaceful inner struggle?

JACKSONVILLE, FL—Acting U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III, along with Acting Assistant Attorney General John Carlin of the Justice Department’s National Security Division and Michelle Klimt, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Jacksonville Division, today announced the return by a grand jury of an indictment charging Shelton Thomas Bell, 19, of Jacksonville, Florida, with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. If convicted, Bell faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison on each of the two charges. Bell is currently detained in the Duval County Jail on unrelated charges.

According to the indictment, Bell devised a plan to travel to the Arabian Peninsula to join Ansar al Sharia (AAS), an alias for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and participate in violent armed conflict that he termed “jihad.” AAS has taken responsibility for multiple attacks on Yemeni forces, including a suicide bombing during a parade in May 2012 that killed more than 100 Yemeni soldiers and a series of armed assaults in March 2012 that killed more than 100 people, including Yemeni soldiers.

The indictment alleges that between May 2012 and September 2012, Bell and others engaged in physical, firearms, and other training in preparation for armed conflict in the Middle East, which Bell described as “the actions of jihad.” Bell allegedly solicited other individuals, including juveniles, to travel overseas with him in furtherance of this conspiracy. Bell made video and audio recordings intended to be distributed to others once he arrived in the Middle East, for the purpose of soliciting and recruiting others there to participate in violent jihad. In September 2012, Bell and a juvenile traveled to Amman, Jordan, and made contact with an individual who could facilitate their travel to Yemen to participate in violent jihad.

The investigative project has a copy of the indictment here. I'm just reading it now, but it looks like at some point he fled arrest and crashed a car in the process.

You'll also notice that he's being charged as part of a conspiracy, and that many of the people he recruited were juveniles. Which means we can expect more indictments to be unsealed the day they turn 18.

UPDATE: Add desecrating a cemetery to the list of his crimes. You gotta wonder if Eric Holder is going to charge him with a hate crime? From the indictment:

On or about July 4, 2012 [Bell] and and another individual .... caused significant damage to religious statues at the Chapel Hills Memorial Cemetery.
The indictment also indicates he used fraud to fund his would-be jihadi escapades. He apparently told some unnamed victim that he was starting a used computer business, when really the money was for airline tickets to .... Israel.

Why any would-be jihadi would think it was a good idea to travel to their final destination via Israel escapes me. Perhaps this guy is one of those low information voters I keep hearing about?

Because when he and his unnamed juvenile friend arrived at the Tel Aviv airport the Israelis promptly denied them entry and sent them packing to Poland -- which was their previous layover point.

It's only at this time that the duo decided Jordan would be more accepting of would-be jihadis, so they fly to Amman instead. And they were right:

Between October ... and September [2012], in Amman, Jordan Bell and [his juvenile accomplice] approached an individual ... known as Shiek Yussef about going to Yemen and making contact with [AQAP].
They then purchased tickets to Oman, from which they would proceed to Yemen. Other than noting a lot of videos by Anwar al-Awlaki to help inspire each other, the indictment kind of ends the story there. So, it's not clear whether they ever got to Oman or not.

I also don't see anything in the indictment about other charges including a vehicle which I had seen in an MSM report, but I'm guessing those are state charges so naturally they wouldn't be in a federal indictment.

The story is still kind of new, so if any one sees any more details do me a favor and drop me a line.

UPDATE: Ah, I missed this over at the Investigative Project:

He has been in the county jail since January on an unrelated grand theft charge, a Jacksonville television station reports.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 11:55 AM | Comments |