Life often takes us in unexpected directions, but Maria Sue Bell’s life has been more rollicking and full of surprises than most. Back in 1984 and 1985, Bell served in the Army National Guard and was on Army Active Duty until Jan. 31, 1986. In a warning sign of what was to come, the criminal complaint against Bell says that she “received an Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge deemed Good for Service in lieu of a Court Martial,” although the reason for this has not been disclosed and has now been overshadowed by far more serious misconduct: Bell was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison for concealing the money and help she provided to her lover, a jihad terrorist in Syria who even spoke to her about striking within the United States.
Love is blind, or so they say, and Bell illustrated the truth of that old adage in spades when she fell under the influence of her lover, Abdullah Flayes. Some women fall in love with doctors or accountants, but Bell was evidently looking for someone more adventurous; in any case, whether or not she was looking for it, adventure is what she got. Flayes was an Islamic jihadi belonging to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is another name for the al-Nusra Front (ANF), which according to the complaint against Bell has been designated by the U.S. government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
According to a Pennsylvania paper, the Franklin Daily Voice, “HTS reportedly is led by Mohammad al-Jolani, the founder of al-Nusra Front, which has which has been described as the ‘most aggressive and successful’ jihadist organization looking to establish an Islamic state in Syria. The group includes many al-Q0aeda mil.itants while claiming to be independent of al-Qaeda, federal authorities say.”
There is no sign that any of that made Bell hesitate even for a second; on the contrary, she appears to have enthusiastically adopted her lover’s perspective and allegiances. The complaint states that in February 2017, while living in Hopatcong, New Jersey, Bell “used mobile applications, including but not limited to Encrypted Applications and Social Media, to communicate with and provide advice to HTS members and to facilitate money transfers to HTS.” Even worse, she “also used the Encrypted Applications to provide other information which could support acts of terrorism by HTS.” This included “guidance to HTS members on matters of operational security, communications, firearms purchases, and other information.”
In offering all this, Bell built herself up as an expert, “often citing her professional experience, including her specialized military training on guns while in active duty in the United States Army, as well her background in the Army National Guard.” She provided one member of HTS, apparently Flayes, with “advice on the purchase of a weapon and ammunition, planned to meet him in Turkey, and sent money to him,” around $3,150, “via intermediaries using Western Union (subsequent to providing him advice on the purchase of weapons and ammunition).”
For Bell, all this plotting for violence was lit up with love light. “Dearest one,” she wrote to Flayes at one point, “You brought me to Islam and introduced me to a place and people where I am peaceful and happy.” She even tried to dissuade Flayes from striking inside the United States out of consideration for her. When he wrote “If you,” that is, the U.S. government, “want to hit the Syrian airports, we will return to revenge within New York,” Bell responded: “Do you realize what will happen to me?” And: “Think dear….. All of us who help Syria will be in danger. I live very close to New York and I am connected on [REDACTED] to many revolutionaries. Now think… Would I be called to help of [sic] left to be jailed?”
She wanted very much to be of help. The Daily Voice notes that when she was arrested in November 2020, Bell “was carrying travel tickets to Turkey through Egypt for that same day.” When the feds searched her home, they found evidence that Bell had become a serious jihadi herself: “136 operable handguns and rifles, 15 canisters of ammo and a short-range rocket launcher.” She spoke of 9/11 as if it had been an attack on an enemy power: “Do you remember the big attack in New York? That was a long time ago. But that stays in memory for many people and makes them suspicious of us. It killed many people and so many Americans how [sic] hate us. It was sad but Americans have little idea of consequences.”
One never knows how romantic relationships will go these days. But in the ranking of relationships from hell, the one between Abdullah Flayes and Maria Sue Bell has got to be way up there.