The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa announced Thursday that a grand jury has indicted Shelton Thomas Bell, 19, of Jacksonville, FL, on charges of conspiring and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. He faces up to 30 years in prison for the two charges. (And a possible Rolling Stone cover?)
FOX News The 19-year-old jihadist wannabe established contact with Al-Qaeda’s branch in Jordan, hitting the weights and the gun range to ready himself to fight in Yemen. Investigators discovered that Bell, who converted to Islam about a year ago, was preparing to fight on the side of the well-known terrorist group, (allegedly the group behind the Benghazi attacks) Ansar Al-Sharia, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. The Ansar Al-Sharia is notorious for claiming responsibility for multiple attacks, including suicide bombings on Yemeni forces, which killed more than 100 people, including Yemeni soldiers.
Investigators reported that Bell and others between May and September 2012 engaged in physical, firearm and other training to prepare for armed conflict in the Middle East. Bell is also accused of soliciting others, including young people, to travel overseas with him to train. According to court records, Bell made video and audio recordings intended to be distributed to others once he arrived in the Middle East. The purpose was to solicit and recruit others there to participate in violent jihad, federal authorities said.
The federal indictment says that Bell and an unidentified person performed “a night-time mission” and vandalized religious statues at a Jacksonville cemetery. The court records also describe how Bell participated in firearms training for an upcoming fight, recorded terrorist recruiting videos and bought a pair of black, tactical gloves for use in combat.
In September 2012, Bell and a juvenile went to Amman, Jordan, and made contact with someone who investigators claimed could help them travel to Yemen to participate in violent jihad.
Bell was being held Thursday at the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville on several state charges, including two counts of grand theft, organized fraud and knowingly and intentionally participating in a motor vehicle crash. According to jail records, Bell was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 29.
According to an arrest report released Thursday by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Bell was a computer repair vendor at a Jacksonville flea market. A woman said she dropped her computer off to be fixed and she told authorities that Bell had “been giving her the run around” and she couldn’t reach him. A Jacksonville Sheriff’s deputy wrote that Bell “cleaned out his booth” at the flea market and bought a one-way ticket to Israel.
The federal indictment states that Israel wouldn’t allow Bell and an unnamed juvenile to enter the country — but Bell went on to travel to Turkey and Jordan and also attempted to travel to Yemen “to find a location where they could participate in violent jihad.”