- Associated Press - Friday, July 24, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona woman accused in a law enforcement sting of giving $500 to buy rifle scopes for al-Qaida fighters to kill American military personnel was arrested at the Phoenix airport before she started an overseas journey to assist the terror group, authorities said Friday.

Jill Marie Jones, 35, of Chandler was arrested Wednesday after clearing a security checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Jones, who authorities say was ultimately headed to Syria, faces a federal charge of trying to provide support and resources to al-Qaida.

In a social media exchange with an FBI employee posing as an al-Qaida member, Jones contemplated using her federal coronavirus relief payment to support al-Qaida, though it’s not clear if she did, the FBI said. She is accused of saying it would be ironic if relief money went to aid al-Qaida.

The U.S. Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a question Friday on whether Jones followed through on the suggestion of using her relief payment to support al-Qaida.

Jones’ attorney, Jami Johnson, didn’t immediately return a call Friday seeking comment on her client’s behalf. Jones hasn’t yet entered a plea to the federal charge.

The FBI said Jones used a $500 prepaid gift card purchased at Walmart to send money to the undercover FBI employee, who later gave Jones a photo of a rifle with a scope, saying it was what her money bought.

“I wish I had more to give but that’d cut into plans for leaving,” the complaint quotes Jones as saying.

The FBI said Jones, who watched videos of attacks by jihadist fighters, wanted to leave the United States for a province in northern Afghanistan that shares a border with Tajikistan.

Authorities say Jones acknowledged the dangers of moving there, but concluded it was worth it. “If I were to have a family I couldn’t imagine raising them here,” the criminal complaint quoted Jones as saying.

Authorities say Jones bought tickets for Afghanistan but airport closures forced her to change her flight instead to Turkey, where she then planned to make her way to Syria.

Jones has a court hearing Monday.

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