JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man was indicted Thursday with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. This case was investigated by the FBI’s Jacksonville Joint Terrorism Task Force, a multi-agency task force comprised of full-time personnel from several law enforcement agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
According to the indictment, Shelton Thomas Bell, 19, devised a plan to travel to the Arabian Peninsula and join Ansar Al-Sharia (AAS), an alias for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and participate in violent, armed conflict which he termed, "jihad." AAS has taken responsibility for multiple attacks on Yemeni forces. Those attacks include a May 2012 suicide bombing during a parade that killed more than 100 Yemeni soldiers and a series armed assaults in March 2012 where more than 100 people, including Yemeni soldiers, were killed.
The indictment alleges that between May 2012 and September, Bell and others engaged in physical, firearms and other training in preparation for armed conflict in the Middle East, which Bell described as "the actions of jihad." Bell allegedly solicited other individuals, including juveniles, to travel overseas with him in furtherance of this conspiracy. Bell made video and audio recordings which he intended to distribute to others once he arrived in the Middle East. The recordings were supposed to recruit other individuals to participate in violent jihad.
In September, Bell and a juvenile traveled to Amman, Jordan, and made contact with an individual who could facilitate their travel to Yemen to participate in violent jihad.
If convicted, Bell faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison on each of the two charges. Bell is currently detained in the Duval County Jail on unrelated charges.
In addition to the FBI and HSI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force consists of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.