Teen jailed for trying to help IS

Published: Saturday 24th January 2015 by The News Editor

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An American teenager who tried to go to Syria to help Islamic State militants has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Shannon Conley, 19, from Denver, Colorado, learned her punishment in federal court in the city as her parents watched.

She wore a black and tan headscarf with her jail uniform.

Conley pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation in September under a deal that requires her to divulge information she may have about other Americans with similar intentions.

FBI agents say Conley wanted to marry a suitor she met online who told her he was fighting with the extremists.

She repeatedly told them she wanted to fight alongside him or use her skills as a nurse’s aide to help.

But Conley told the judge she was misled while pursuing Islam and learned only after her arrest about atrocities committed by the extremists she was taught to respect.

“I am glad I have learned of their true identity here and not on the front lines,” she said.

“I disavow these radical views I’ve come to know and I now believe in the true Islam in which peace is encouraged.”

But Judge Raymond Moore said he doubted Conley’s views had changed, and that she needs psychological help.

He also sentenced her to three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service and barred her from possessing black powder used in explosives, saying: “I’m not going to take a chance with you.”

“I don’t know what has been crystalised in your mind,” the judge told her, adding that he hoped the sentence would discourage others with similar intentions: “I’m still not sure you get it.”

Conley was arrested in April as she boarded a plane she hoped would ultimately get her to Syria, where she wanted to marry the man she met online.

FBI agents became aware of her interest in jihad in late 2013, after she started talking about terrorism with members of a suburban Denver church.

They met her repeatedly over several months, hoping to dissuade her. But she told them she was intent on waging jihad, even though she knew it was illegal.

“Even though I was committed to the idea of jihad, I didn’t want to hurt anyone,” she said in court yesterday. “It was all about defending Muslims.”

Mr Moore described her as an isolated high school drop-out with almost no friends her own age and a strange obsession with the military.

Her case came as US officials are putting new energy into trying to understand what radicalises people far removed from the fight.

Federal defender Robert Pepin said Conley had grown, even changing her name as a show of her transformation.

Published: Saturday 24th January 2015 by The News Editor

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