An American woman was arrested at the Phoenix airport last week, reportedly just before she was attempting to travel to join al-Qaida. In a statement released Friday by the U.S. Department of Justice, Jill Marie Jones of Chandler, Arizona “purchased tickets to fly overseas to join al-Qaida in Afghanistan, but due to airport closures, she changed her flights to go to Turkey instead,” then planned to travel on to Syria.
Voice Of America News reports, “according to a criminal complaint filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Jones was in communication with two FBI undercover agents, one of whom she believed to be a member of al-Qaida.” During conversations with the undercover agents, Jones “agreed to send him money to buy scopes for rifles that would be used by al-Qaida to kill American soldiers.” Jones gave $500 to the supposed al-Qaida member using a prepaid gift card in May according to the FBI complaint.
Unfortunately, Miss Jones’ scenario may not be as uncommon as we think. “Every year we see a dozen or so of these arrests where people are attempting to flee the country to be foreign fighters or providing material support to terrorism overseas” former senior domestic terrorism analyst at the U.S Department of Homeland Security, Daryl Johnson, told VOA.
The majority of the arrests occur through sting operations where FBI agents pose as ISIS or al-Qaida operatives such as in the case of Jones. Johnson warned “a lot of Americans can get radicalized and introduced to these extremist beliefs just by watching social media sites like YouTube” and added, “al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has an extensive American outreach.”
Johnson gave an example of Inspire Magazine, an online publication in English that “is still available online for people to read its past issues to get ideas as it was written specifically for an American audience.” Inspire Magazine was reportedly the brainchild of Anwar al-Awlaki, the “U.S. born al-Qaida propagandist, who was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen in 2011” and is a magazine made “to spread al-Qaida’s extremist ideology” reported VOA.