A screenshot of an interview with Abdullah Flayes, a man who the FBI says is a terrorist who was in contact with Maria Bell, 53, a veteran of the United States Army. Bell was arrested on November 25, 2020 on charges relating to providing material support to Flayes. (YouTube / OGN Television)

Screenshot of an interview with Abdullah Flayes, a man who the FBI says is a terrorist who was in contact with Maria Bell, 53, a veteran of the US military.  Bell was arrested on November 25, 2020 on charges relating to providing material support to Flayes.

A screenshot of an interview with Abdullah Flayes, a man who the FBI says is a terrorist who was in contact with Maria Bell, 53, a veteran of the United States Army. Bell was arrested on November 25, 2020 on charges relating to providing material support to Flayes. (YouTube / OGN Television)

Screenshots of encrypted messages included in a criminal complaint against New Jersey woman Maria Bell, 53, show a conversation that federal prosecutors say took place between the U.S. Army veteran and an activist suspected of being Abdullah Flayes.  Bell told her to make a list of her three favorite guns so they could pick one, according to the complaint, and she later indicated that she would help pay for the gun.

Screenshots of encrypted messages included in a criminal complaint against New Jersey woman Maria Bell, 53, show a conversation that federal prosecutors say took place between the U.S. Army veteran and an activist suspected of being Abdullah Flayes. Bell told her to make a list of her three favorite guns so they could pick one, according to the complaint, and she later indicated that she would help pay for the gun. (DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE)

Vacation travel can be stressful, especially for a New Jersey woman arrested this week for providing material support to a member of an Al-Qaida affiliate in Syria whom she said she loved but whom she loved. found it too controlling.

FBI agents arrested Maria Bell, a 53-year-old military veteran, at her home in Hopatcong, New Jersey on Wednesday, federal prosecutors said. Bell had tickets to travel to Turkey via Egypt the same day, according to a criminal complaint.

This is the second time that the FBI has cut off Bell’s plans to visit Turkey around Thanksgiving.

In 2018, she had planned to fly from New York to Istanbul on Black Friday, but was denied boarding after federal agents questioned her at the airport.

On this trip, she had planned to meet a man who identified himself as a member of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, a designated terrorist group led by the founder of the Front al-Nusra and made up of former al-Nusra fighters. -Qaida, the complaint said, citing encrypted online messages between the two.

Bell sent the man $ 3,150 in 18 installments through the day before Thanksgiving in 2018, using middlemen to cover up the intended recipient, the conformer said.

But just before Thanksgiving, the two appeared to fall out after the activist, believed to be a man named Abdullah Flayes, refused to let her meet his family, according to a government transcript of their online releases.

“I love you very much, but it’s hard for me to accept the way you run my life,” Bell wrote. “I am an independent woman in America. If I wasn’t the woman I am, I wouldn’t be able to support you.

Authorities say Bell has also provided human guidance on operational security, communications, and weapons and ammunition purchases in thousands of apps and social media posts since February 2017.

Bell has often cited his military experience, prosecutors said. She served in the National Guard and on active duty in the military from November 1984 to January 1986, but received a discharge other than honorable in lieu of court martial, according to a criminal complaint.

Flayes is not named in the document, but is identified in online news videos cited in the court file, one of which in late 2016 showed him wearing a camouflage uniform and a protective vest. bullets, carrying a rifle and fighting Syrian regime forces in Aleppo.

In this video, he says he is a member of Ahrar al-Sham. At the time, he had a military partnership with HTS, a group believed to be led by Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, a man believed to have had close ties to former al-Qaida leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al- Zarqawi.

Jolani was arrested and detained by US forces at Camp Bucca in Iraq in 2008, and after his release he worked alongside Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

After several messages in which Flayes discussed her commitment to Jolani’s group with Bell, she told him to ensure that HTS management prevents American journalists from speaking to activists, warning that the author and terrorism researcher Charles Lister “is not a friend” and was collecting information. be used against them.

“It is important to protect Jolani that trust is maintained,” she wrote.

At one point, Flayes warned that if US warplanes hit targets controlled by militants in support of the Syrian regime, “we will come back for revenge in New York.”

“If ever there was an attack in New York, all Muslims and aides like me will be arrested,” Bell replied later, prosecutors said.

If convicted, Bell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000.

portrait of the author

Chad garland

Chad is a Marine Corps veteran who covers the US military in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and sometimes elsewhere for Stars and Stripes. A native of Illinois who has reported for news organizations in Washington, DC, Arizona, Oregon and California, he is an alumnus of the Defense Language Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign and Arizona State University.



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