American woman accused of supporting HTS mercenaries

Federal prosecutors in the United States accused a New Jersey woman of concealing multiple attempts to transfer funds to mercenaries in Syria linked to Jabhat al-Nusra (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham), a branch of al-Qaeda based in the Syrian province of Idlib.

Federal prosecutors in the United States accused a woman from New Jersey named Maria Bell, at 53, of concealing her involvement in providing material support to a "foreign terrorist" organization. She appeared via video, on Wednesday, in front of Judge Cathy Waldor in New York who refused to release her on bail, according to Reuters.

Federal Prosecutor Dean Sopholos told the judge that when they searched Maria Bell's home, investigators found 136 pistols and rifles, 15 packages filled with ammunition and an anti-tank missile.

A statement signed by FBI agent Matthew Hohman said that Maria Bell provided assistance to the extremist group and that she has professional experience, including specialized firearms training that she underwent during her active duty in the US Army and the Army National Guard.

If found guilty, Maria Bell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000.

The US Attorney's Office in New York said that as of February 2017, Maria Bell used mobile applications to provide advice and facilitate the transfer of funds to Jabhet al-Nusra, also known as the Headquarters for Hayat Tahrir al-Sham(HTS).

The FBI statement claimed that Maria Bell regularly used encrypted online applications to communicate with a member of Jabhet al-Nusra, and said that she exchanged "thousands of encrypted communications" with a member of Al-Nusra.

The FBI said that Maria Bell planned to meet with a member of Al-Nusra in Turkey, and that she sent sums of money to members of Al-Nusra 18 times, totaling $ 3,150.



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