An Arizona woman who tried to send money to al Qaeda was arrested at an airport as she tried to get to Syria, according to the FBI.
Jill Marie Jones, 35, was booked by federal officers at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on Wednesday before boarding a flight bound for Los Angeles, then Turkey, with the ultimate goal of entering war-torn Syria to work with terrorists, court documents reveal. She was charged with attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda.
Jones began communicating with an undercover FBI agent in March, who then connected her with a second undercover investigator, according to court documents. During the course of their interactions, Jones expressed disdain for the United States and a desire to help al Qaeda.
She allegedly purchased a $500 prepaid gift card that she thought was used to purchase scopes for rifles to “kill Americans.”
“May it help them be victorious,” Jones allegedly told the undercover agent after the transaction. During discussions of the funding, she also noted the coronavirus relief checks that people in the U.S. received because of the pandemic.
“The timing is interesting,” she allegedly told the agent in May. “Since because of coronavirus, we all got government money. Free money basically. We would be delayed without it anyway, and it would be most ironic the money from that goes for this … They give us free money, and I turn it around on them.”
The FBI said that while Jones had first planned to travel to Afghanistan by way of Tajikistan, because of the coronavirus, the plan changed to going to Syria. She had expected the undercover agent to travel with her. During her conversations with the undercover agent, she also allegedly hinted that she had considered domestic terrorist attacks in the past.
“I had, at one time, thought of acting here, I have a base near me. But my power is limited here. My resources and its reach,” Jones is quoted in court documents as saying. “Even then, the brothers and sisters here would only be negatively impacted by it. They would get more harassment, and the ones that aren’t strong will go further from Islam from it.”
During her conversations, investigators said she spoke about not being overly concerned about where she would end up in the Middle East. At one point, she allegedly suggested joining Tanzim Hurras al Din, also known as Guardians of Religion, a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda, although she confessed she had little knowledge of the individual militant groups within the larger al Qaeda umbrella.
“Well I won’t lie this world holds nothing for me. I’m ready to go home. It’s a reason I’m not scared of this journey. Knowing I may die or be molested on the way even. But I’d rather live one more day fighting for freedom and Islam, then living years as a ‘free’ captive of the kuffar,” she is accused of writing during one of the conversations, using the Arabic word “kuffar,” which means nonbeliever.
Jones was arrested after checking her bags at the airport and making her way through the security check. Her next scheduled court appearance is set for Monday, and she faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
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