JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A Jacksonville teen is facing federal charges after authorities say he traveled to the Middle East to train with terrorists.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa announced Thursday that a grand jury has indicted Shelton Thomas Bell, 19, on charges of conspiring and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. He faces up to 15 years in prison for each of the two charges.
According to the indictment, Bell had planned to travel to the Arabian Peninsula and join Ansar Al-Sharia, which is an alias for Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula. The group has taken responsibility for multiple attacks on Yemeni forces, including a suicide bombing during a parade in May 2012, which killed more than 100 Yemeni soldiers. The group has also claimed credit for a series of armed assaults in March 2012, killing more than 100 people, including Yemeni soldiers.
Investigators reported that Bell and others engaged in physical, firearm and other training in preparation for armed conflict in the Middle East between May 2012 and September 2012. Bell is also accused of soliciting other individuals, including juveniles, to travel overseas with him for the same purpose.
According to court records, Bell made video and audio recordings intended to be distributed to others once he arrived in the Middle East. The alleged purpose of the recordings was to solicit and recruit others there to participate in violent jihad. In September 2012, Bell and a juvenile traveled to Amman, Jordan, and made contact with an individual who investigators claimed could facilitate their travel to Yemen to participate in violent jihad.
Bell was being held Thursday at the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville on several state charges, including two counts of grand theft, organized fraud and knowingly and intentionally participating in a motor vehicle crash. According to jail records, Bell was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Jan. 29.
It's unclear whether Bell has retained an attorney on the federal charges.