updated 2/3/2012 1:46:38 PM ET 2012-02-03T18:46:38

A U.S. judge is weighing whether to hold a woman accused of paying a hit man to behead three witnesses in a North Carolina terrorism case.

Nevine Aly Elshiekh made her first court appearance Friday. She was arrested last month after FBI agents tracked her to a meeting with a government informant posing as a hit man's representative. Agents say the 46-year-old provided the informant with the names of those to be killed and a $750 down payment toward the first hit.

Prosecutors say the plot was masterminded by Hysen Sherifi, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison for a conspiracy to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia.

Also arrested in the beheading plot is Shkumbin Sherifi, the 21-year-old brother of the terror defendant.

Shkumbin Sherifi was arrested after FBI agents tracked him to a Jan. 8 meeting in the parking lot of a Wilmington Food Lion grocery store with a government informant posing as the representative of a hit man. He is accused of paying the informant $4,250 toward the first killing while his mother waited nearby in a Honda minivan.

On Jan. 22, prosecutors said Sherifi met with the informant again, this time receiving fake photos that showed the blood-covered witnesses lying in a shallow grave and what appeared to be the man's severed head.

An FBI agent testified Sherifi left the meeting and went directly to the New Hanover County Detention Center. After a meeting with his brother that was monitored by the FBI, Sherifi was arrested as he was leaving the jail with the photos in his possession.

The Sherifis are naturalized U.S. citizens who emigrated from Kosovo in 1999 following a bloody sectarian war.

Prosecutors allege Elshiekh served as a go-between for the Sherifi brothers and the confidential informant.

Those targeted for death, according to the government, were three confidential informants who testified against Hysen Sherifi and his co-defendants during a lengthy terrorism trial that began in shortly after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Hysen Sherifi and two other Raleigh men were found guilty of terrorism-related offenses, while three other accused co-conspirators pleaded guilty.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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