Philly Woman Arrested on Suspicion of Trying to Join ISIS

Her alias is "YoungLioness." If convicted she faces up to 15 years in prison.

Thirty-year-old Philadelphia woman Keonna Thomas, who also goes by Fatayat Al Khilafah or YoungLioness, has been charged today with “knowingly attempting to provide material support and resources” to ISIS and is now in federal custody.

According to a criminal complaint filed today (see below), Thomas started to publicly affirm her sympathies with ISIS on Twitter in August of 2013, when she posted a photo of a young man with ammunition pouches in camouflage and wrote: “Ask yourselves, while this young man is holding magazines for Islamic State, what are you doing for it? #ISIS.” 

In the following months, she is alleged to have emailed with a Somalia-based “violent jihadi fighter” about getting enough money to leave the land of non-believers. In the months that followed, the complaint says she posted sporadic Twitter messages that betrayed an increasing interest in martyrdom, referring to poetic notions like that the souls of martyrs live on in the bodies of green birds. At one point, she allegedly wrote that she was jealous of the smiles of martyrs; at another, she wrote that for the muhajid, “death becomes a wedding.”

In December 2014, a “known overseas ISIL fighter” wrote to Thomas about having arrived in Syria for training, and Thomas allegedly began to make plans for her own departure as well, expressing concerns about her passport and her travel plans. Thomas, the complaint says, averred that it would be “amazing” to become a martyr with the overseas fighter, adding, “A girl can only wish.” The fighter allegedly replied, “I can make that wish come true.”

Thomas then bought a visa to Turkey, which the complaint says is “the most common and most direct transit point for individuals traveling from locations in Europe who are seeking to enter Syria and join ISIL.” She also bought airline tickets to Barcelona after researching bus routes from Barcelona to Istanbul.

Based on an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Philadelphia Police Department into her social media use, her correspondence with alleged co-conspirators, and her Internet search history, she was arrested and charged. She was expected to appear at magistrate court at the federal courthouse today at 1:30 p.m. If convicted, she could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The full complaint is below.

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