A Philadelphia mother of two planned to leave her children to join her Internet husband in a suicide bombing for Islamic State.
Keonna Thomas, a 32-year-old resident of North Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to supporting a terrorist organization in federal court Tuesday, reported Philly.com.
“I believe that I’m guilty of this charge,” Thomas admitted to U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson, with her face covered in a head scarf worn over her green prison jumpsuit.
The Thomas case breaks from many of the typical norms associated with ISIS sympathizers. She appears to have had no ties to the Middle East, having been born in Pittsburgh and spending most of her life in Philadelphia. She lived with her mother in the same house for the past 10 years. It is unclear as to when Thomas began her journey to radicalization, but the case has revealed that the unemployed Philadelphia mother was living a secret jihadi life over the Internet.
Thomas spent her free time pushing terrorist propaganda online via the alias Fatayat al-Khilafah and “YoungLionness” beginning in August 2013. Initially, her support was limited to posts on social media like Twitter. One of her early posts featured a young boy holding various weapons, with the caption “Ask yourselves, while this young man is holding magazines for the Islamic State, what are you doing for it? #ISIS.”
A few months later, Thomas began to show signs that she was interested in doing more than publishing propaganda. An April 2014 post pictured an image of a flaming skull and gun, with the message “I need a permanent vacation that can only mean one thing.”
Thomas eventually got in contact with Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal, a radical Islamic cleric from Jamaica, asking him to find her a husband in the so-called caliphate. She would later begin an online relationship with ISIS recruit Abu Khalid al-Amriki, marrying him in a ceremony over Skype. Amriki asked Thomas in February 2015 if she was open to engaging in a suicide attack; Thomas was more than willing.
“That would be amazing … A girl can only wish,” she replied.
Thomas was arrested two months later in April 2015. Her lawyers have spent the last year countering the government’s accusations, saying their client’s speech was protected by the First Amendment. Thomas changed her plea Tuesday on her own volition, according to defense attorney Kathleen Gaughan.
Thomas will be sentenced on Jan. 17, and faces up to 15 years in prison.
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