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Arizona woman accused of helping inmate husband plot prison bombing

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An Arizona woman accused of smuggling publications distributed by Islamist militant groups into a prison as part of a plot to help her inmate husband build a bomb, has been arrested on suspicion of terrorism and conspiracy, court documents showed on Thursday.  

Michelle Bastian, 49, was taken into custody on Wednesday and charged with taking part in the alleged plot at the Arizona State Prison Complex – Lewis, where her husband, Thomas Bastian, is incarcerated for murder, according to the documents filed by the state Attorney General’s Office in Maricopa County Superior Court.

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The court papers said agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation learned of the plan in September from an unidentified source who previously told state prison officials that Thomas Bastian was a radicalized Muslim.

Michelle Bastian was accused of giving her husband “known terrorist publications” distributed by al Qaeda and Islamic State, including information on building a bomb out of everyday kitchen materials, the probable cause statement said.

Authorities said they were also tipped off that during visits to the prison, Michelle Bastian was going to provide her husband with materials to attack the warden or to construct a device to be hidden in a vending machine where inmates met with visitors.

It was not clear if any bomb-making materials were found and no charges have been filed against Thomas Bastian. A prison spokesman said Bastian remained in maximum security at Lewis, where he is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

Publications by militant groups and a stack of detailed handwritten documents on how to build an explosive device were discovered in searches of his cell, according to court documents.

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Letters from the inmate were found at Michelle Bastian’s work and residence requesting the publications, including copies of an al Qaeda training manual and a piece titled: “44 ways of Supporting Jihad,” according to the documents. Several of the requests had checkmarks next to them.

Michelle Bastian was being held on $100,000 bond on charges of terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and conspiracy to promote prison contraband. It was unclear on Thursday whether she had retained an attorney.

(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney)

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