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Jacksonville teen facing terrorism-related charges

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Updated: 7/18/2013 11:52 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A local teenager has been indicted on federal charges related to terrorism.

A grand jury indicted Shelton Thomas Bell, 19, on charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support to terrorists.

He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison on each of the two charges.

The indictment claims Bell devised a plan to travel to the Arabian Peninsula and join Ansar Al-Sharia (AAS), an alias for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and take part in a violent armed conflict, which he called a "jihad."

As America celebrated its birthday on July 4, 2012, the indictment claimed Bell, and another unidentified individual, held nighttime "training missions" inside the Chapel Hills Memorial Gardens cemetery.

The "individuals dressed in dark clothing, wore masks and gloves, wrapped their footwear in tape, and, caused significant damage to religious statues at the cemetery," according to the indictment.

Court records also show the two participated in firearms training on July 4, 2012, to prepare for armed conflict in the Middle East, much of it videotaped.

The videotaped training continued on July 10, according to the indictment.  Bell reportedly referred to his training as 'practic(ing) in jihad'.

Authorities also say Bell identified his real target as the American flag and the government. 

Federal authorities say Bell bought a US passport through 'expresspassport.com' and picked it up at the Post Office on Beach Boulevard, as part of his effort to get to the Middle East.

Investigators, according to the indictment, leased a laptop from Aaron's to download lectures from known terrorist leaders like Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama Bin Laden, and view maps and locations where he and his juvenile accomplice could cross over into Yemen to join with the AAS.

AAS, according to the indictment, has taken responsibility for multiple attacks on Yemeni forces, including a suicide bombing during a parade in May 2012. More than 100 soldiers died in the attacks.

Similar attacks in March 2012 also killed more than 100 people, including soldiers.

After training, the indictment states Bell bought a one-way ticket to travel from Jacksonville to Tel Aviv between September 25-27, 2012, with stops in New York and Warsaw, Poland.

Authorities say he spent several months overseas in the Middle East before returning to the United States.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office then arrested Bell on January 29, 2013, on grand theft charges.

According to police, Bell worked as a vendor at the Pecan Park Flea Market at 650 Pecan Park Road.

A woman told police she gave her $300 laptop to Bell to fix on July 22, 2012.

The woman told police she got the runaround when she tried to contact Bell for an update on the computer repair.

Flea market managers told the woman Bell left the flea market and took everything with him.  It was during that time that federal authorities say Bell spent overseas on his mission.

According to the police report, Bell went to Englewood High School.

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