Woman, aka 'Jihad Jane,' charged with recruiting terrorists

Colleen R. LaRose

March 18, 2010 6:27:04 AM PDT
A Pennsylvania woman has been charged with using the Internet to recruit jihadist fighters and help terrorists overseas.The indictment charges Colleen R. LaRose, aka "Fatima LaRose," aka "JihadJane," of Montgomery County, Pa. with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, making false statements to a government official and attempted identity theft.

LaRose was arrested on October 15, 2009 in Philadelphia.

LaRose and five unindicted co-conspirators located in South Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the United States allegedly recruited men on the Internet to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe, and recruited women on the Internet who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad.

According to investigators, she was interacting with individuals in Sweden and was connected to individuals who wanted to kill a Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who drew the Prophet Muhammed with the body of a dog.

According to investigators, LaRose received a direct order to kill him in a way that would frighten "the whole Kufar [non-believer] world."

The indictment charges that LaRose traveled to Europe and tracked the intended target online in an effort to complete her task.

"This case shows the use terrorists can and do make of the Internet," said U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy. "Colleen LaRose and five other individuals scattered across the globe are alleged to have used the Internet to form a conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism, culminating in a direct order to LaRose to commit murder overseas."

LaRose, who has blond hair and blue eyes, indicated in her online conversations that she thought her appearance would help her move freely in Sweden to carry out the attack, the indictment said.

In a February 2009 online message to a co-conspirator in south Asia, she said her physical appearance would allow her to "blend in with many people," which "may be a way to achieve what is in my heart," the indictment said.

LaRose is a convert to Islam who actively recruited others, including at least one unidentified American, and her online messages expressed her willingness to become a martyr and her impatience to take action, according to the indictment and the U.S. official.

"I will make this (killing the artist) my goal till I achieve it or die trying," she wrote another south Asian suspect in March 2009, according to the indictment.

Levy said the indictment doesn't link LaRose to any organized terror groups. He would not comment on whether other arrests were expected.

LaRose, 46, lived in Pennsburg, Montgomery County, Pa., before moving to Europe in August 2009, authorities said.

She called herself JihadJane in a YouTube video in which she said she was "desperate to do something somehow to help" ease the suffering of Muslims, the indictment said. According to the 11-page document, she agreed to obtain residency in a European country and marry one of the terrorists to enable him to live there.

She traveled abroad with a U.S. passport stolen from a male friend and intended to give it to one of her "brothers," the indictment said. She hoped to "live and train with jihadists and to find and kill" the targeted artist, it said.

"Today's indictment, which alleges that a woman from suburban America agreed to carry out murder overseas and to provide material support to terrorists, underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.

LaRose also agreed to provide financial help to her co-conspirators in Asia and Europe, the indictment charged.

LaRose has been in federal custody since her Oct. 15 arrest in Philadelphia, authorities said. She had an initial court appearance the next day but didn't enter a plea.

Her federal public defender Mark T. Wilson declined to comment Tuesday.

Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said the case represents "one of only a few such cases nationwide in which females have been charged with terrorism violations." He declined to comment further on it.

In recent years, the only other women charged in the U.S. with terror violations were lawyer Lynne Stewart, convicted of helping imprisoned blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman communicate with his followers, and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist found guilty of shooting at U.S. personnel in Afghanistan while yelling, "Death to Americans!"

But neither of those cases involved the kind of plotting attributed to LaRose - a woman charged with trying to foment a terror conspiracy to kill someone overseas.

Stewart has insisted she is "not a traitor," while Siddiqui has accused U.S. authorities of lying about her.


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