Feds: N. Philly woman wanted to join ISIS
Keonna Thomas was arrested in her rowhouse at the Richard Allen Homes public-housing project.
WHO KNEW we had an alleged terrorist wannabe in North Philly, aiming to join the terrorist group the Islamic State?
Well, the feds yesterday announced that Keonna Thomas - who lived in the Richard Allen Homes public-housing project - planned to travel to Syria to join, fight with and martyr herself for ISIS, known for its videotaped beheadings of American and British aid workers and other hostages.
Thomas, 30, also known as Fatayat Al Khilafah and "YoungLioness," was arrested yesterday morning at her three-story brick-and-stucco rowhouse, which has three small American flags flying from its front white columns.
Two men seen going into Thomas' house, on 10th Street near Brown, in the afternoon did not respond to reporters, as TV news trucks lined the street. A man who later answered the phone at the house told the Daily News, "I don't give a f--- who you are. Don't call here no more."
Neighbors asked by the Daily News claimed to not know Thomas or her family well. A woman next-door neighbor said as she left a nearby corner bodega: "I'm not commenting on this. I don't got nothing to do with that."
Thomas appeared in a federal courtroom in Center City in the afternoon, dressed in a full-length black burka, which covered her from head to toe, and shrouded her face from the top of her nose down. Only her two eyes peered out of the garment.
With her hands cuffed behind her, she was led to the defense table by a U.S. marshal, who uncuffed her as she first sat alone.
Thomas, charged by a criminal complaint with knowingly attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS, said at her initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Lynne Sitarski that she did not have an attorney. She was appointed assistant federal defender Kathleen Gaughan, who then sat next to her.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams told the judge that prosecutors want Thomas to remain in custody until trial, and will file a motion to support their request in the next few days. A detention and probable-cause hearing was set for Wednesday afternoon.
The feds "executed a search warrant at [Thomas'] house" two days before she planned to leave the country, Williams told the judge, adding that if it were not for the warrant, the feds believe Thomas would have been on a flight out of the country, making her way to Syria.
Gaughan said afterward that her office will be prepared to act on Thomas' behalf at Wednesday's hearing.
According to an affidavit prepared by FBI Special Agent Martin McDonald, Thomas, starting in August 2013, expressed support for joining the terrorist group on her Twitter account.
ISIS, which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is also known as ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and al Qaeda in Iraq.
The group has gained notoriety in the past year for its shocking videotaped beheadings of hostages and for burning alive a Jordanian Air Force pilot in a cage.
According to the FBI affidavit:
* In August 2013, Thomas re-posted on Twitter a photograph of a young boy "wearing firearm magazine pouches and camouflage attire" with the caption: "Ask yourselves, while this young man is holding magazines for the Islamic state, what are you doing for it? #ISIS."
* In December 2013, she "sent an electronic communication to a known Somalia-based violent jihadi fighter originally from Minnesota," telling him she should be "able to travel" because she "should be getting some money soon."
* In January 2014, Thomas posted on Twitter: "Only thing I'm jealous of is when I see the smiles of shuhadaa," or martyrs.
* On Dec. 2, 2014, "a known overseas ISIL fighter" sent Thomas an electronic communication telling her he was in Raqqa, a city in Syria, for training. Thomas replied she was happy for him.
* On Jan. 30, of this year, Thomas "sent an electronic communication to a radical Islamic cleric" in Jamaica saying she will be leaving the U.S. soon.
* On Feb. 4, Thomas, a U.S. citizen, applied for a passport.
* On Feb. 14, she sent an electronic communication to the Islamic cleric, saying she deactivated her Twitter account.
* On Feb. 17, the ISIS fighter in Raqqa sent Thomas an electronic communication saying that if he ever found out his wife were a spy, "I will personally behead her." In response, Thomas wrote "cutting head is more personal."
* Also on that day, the ISIS fighter wrote to Thomas that she probably wants to do martyrdom operations with him. Thomas replied: "that would be amazing . . . a girl can only wish." To that, the ISIS fighter wrote: "I can make that wish come true."
* Then, on March 23, Thomas bought an electronic visa to enter Turkey, which, according to an ISIS manual, is a recommended place for ISIS recruits to travel to so they can slip over the border into neighboring Syria. The manual also advises ISIS recruits to buy round-trip tickets to popular vacation spots, like Spain.
* On March 26, Thomas bought a round-trip ticket for a March 29 flight from Philadelphia to Barcelona, Spain.
If convicted, Thomas faces a maximum sentence of 15 years behind bars.