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July 22, 2013 0

Florida Teen, Shelton Thomas Bell, Latest American To Attempt To Join Al Qaeda

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Shel­ton Thomas bell

The lat­est Amer­i­can cit­i­zen to appar­ently respond to Al Qaeda’s call by attempt­ing to join the ter­ror­ist group is 19-year-old Florid­ian Shel­ton Thomas Bell.

Bell, who accord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors attempted to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) in Yemen, has been charged with con­spir­ing and attempt­ing to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to terrorists.

Since 2007, at least 52 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged for suc­cess­fully trav­el­ing or attempt­ing to travel abroad to reach Al Qaeda affil­i­ate groups. Many joined or attempted to join Al Shabaab in Soma­lia, while oth­ers have received train­ing in Pak­istan. More recently, some Amer­i­cans have been attracted to Jab­hat al-Nusrah in Syria.

Bell, report­edly a Mus­lim con­vert, “devised a plan to travel to the Ara­bian Penin­sula to join Ansar al Sharia (AAS),” an alias for (AQAP), “and par­tic­i­pate in vio­lent armed con­flict that he termed ‘jihad,’” accord­ing to the fed­eral indictment.

Bell and a juve­nile trav­eled to Jor­dan Sep­tem­ber 2012 and made con­tact with some­one who could facil­i­tate their travel to Yemen and intro­duce them to ter­ror­ists, accord­ing to the indictment.

The indict­ment also alleges that between May 2012 and Sep­tem­ber 2012, Bell and oth­ers engaged in phys­i­cal, firearms, and other train­ing in prepa­ra­tion for what Bell described as “the actions of jihad,” includ­ing “a night-time mis­sion” in which they van­dal­ized reli­gious stat­ues at a Jack­sonville cemetery.

Bell allegedly also made video and audio record­ings for the pur­pose of solic­it­ing and recruit­ing oth­ers to par­tic­i­pate in vio­lent jihad.

Lead­ers of the Islamic Cen­ter of North­east Florida in Jack­sonville report­edly noti­fied law enforce­ment about Bell because they were con­cerned about con­ver­sa­tion he was hav­ing about weapons and jihad at their mosque.

AQAP has been described by the U.S. gov­ern­ment as “the most active and dan­ger­ous” branch of Al Qaeda. The growth of AQAP has led Amer­i­can offi­cials to indi­cate that Yemen could become Al Qaeda’s next oper­a­tional and train­ing hub for the group’s mil­i­tants from around the world.

A key com­po­nent of AQAP’s oper­a­tional strat­egy entails reach­ing out to English-speaking audi­ences with its mes­sages and pro­pa­ganda in order to recruit new mem­bers. This mate­r­ial encour­ages West­ern audi­ences to adopt its ide­ol­ogy and carry out attacks against West­ern inter­ests in the Ara­bian Penin­sula and abroad.

The dri­ving forces behind AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda machine were Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric, and Samir Khan, an Amer­i­can blog­ger and pro­pa­gan­dist, both of whom were killed in a Sep­tem­ber 30, 2011 drone strike.

Bell, who worked as a com­puter repair ven­dor at a flea mar­ket in Jack­sonville, is in jail await­ing trial on unre­lated grand theft charges.

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