FBI agents arrested a Sussex County woman Wednesday and charged her with supporting a Syrian terrorist group.
Maria Bell, a 53-year-old former U.S. Army solider and member of the National Guard, provided money and advice to “fighters based in Syria who were members of various factions fighting the Assad regime,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
Bell cited her professional experience in specialized weapons training, offering to provide guidance on operational security issues, weapons purchases and military intelligence, a complaint on file in U.S. District Court in Newark charges.
According to the complaint, Bell wired money to a self-identified member of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alias for the al-Nusra Front (ANF), through Western Union by “using an intermediary to conceal the source of the funds.”
Bell, who was arrested at her home early Wednesday, used encrypted mobile apps to advise him on weapons and ammunition, it says.
The al-Nusra Front operates in northwest Syria and is also known by other aliases, the complaint says.
Founded in 2012, it has been described as the "most aggressive and successful" jihadist organization looking to establish an Islamic state in Syria. In 2013, it reportedly became the official Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.
Bell, who was arrested at her home Wednesday morning, was scheduled for an initial appearance via videoconference with a U.S. magistrate judge in Newark on a single count of knowingly concealing the provision of material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
Carpenito and Assistant Attorney General for National Security Joh Demers credited special agents of FBI with the investigation leading to the charges.
Representing the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean C. Sovolos of Carpenito’s National Security Unit, with the assistance of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division Counterterrorism Section in Washington, D.C.
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