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'Jihad Jane' behind terror plot to kill cartoonist

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US woman operating online under the name "JihadJane" recruited jihadist fighters in the United States, Europe and Asia in a bid to carry out terror plots "or die trying".

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US authorities said middle-aged Pennsylvania resident Colleen LaRose, who was arrested in October 2009, spent more than a year networking with would-be attackers around the world.

She sought to recruit men and women, to raise money and even agreed to carry out the murder of a Swedish resident, pledging "only death will stop me," an indictment charged.

The Justice Department unsealed the indictment against LaRose just hours after Irish police arrested seven people accused of plotting to kill a Swedish cartoonist.

She faces charges of "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," the indictment said.

LaRose, born in 1963, is also accused of recruiting women "who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad," and of having stolen a US passport "and transferred or attempted to transfer it in an effort to facilitate an act of international terrorism."

If convicted of the charges against her, LaRose could face life in prison and a one million dollar fine.

The indictment claims she received two messages in March 2009 from an individual in a South Asian country instructing her to kill an unnamed Swedish resident.

"Kill him... this is what i say to u," the indictment quotes one message as saying. "Kill (the individual) in a way that the whole Kufar (non-believer) world get frightened," the second said.

"I will make this my goal till i achieve it or die trying," LaRose allegedly responded.

The Justice Department declined to comment on whether LaRose was connected to the arrest of four men and three women in Ireland over an alleged plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks.

An Al-Qaeda-linked group has placed a 100,000-dollar (74,000-euro) bounty on his head in response to a cartoon he drew depicting the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog.

LaRose allegedly "sent an electronic communication to the Swedish embassy asking for instructions on acquiring permanent residency status in Sweden," the Justice Department said, adding that she "traveled to Europe with the intent to live and train with jihadists" in August 2009.

LaRose, also identified by the monikers "Fatima LaRose" and "JihadJane," faces life in prison if convicted.

A MySpace page under the name "JihadJane" features a biography of a Pennsylvania woman who describes herself as having "reverted to Islam."

"I live in Pennsylvania, originally from Texas. I have recently (a couple months) reverted to Islam and I can safely say that of all the things I have ever done in my lifetime, bcomming Muslim is what i am the proudest of."

Elsewhere, the user lists her heroes as "Skeikh OBL," an apparent reference to Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, and "The brothers in... Jihad."

The indictment and material released by SITE, a US group that monitors extremists, suggest LaRose had an active online presence, despite being repeatedly banned from websites including YouTube and harboring fears she was under surveillance.

SITE released a message purportedly posted by LaRose on an English-language jihadist forum that directly addressed those she thought were monitoring her.

"We are and have been aware of you and your infiltration in here and in other forums.... i hope you enjoy the videos and pictures of your comrades being blown to hell by the brothers well placed IED's and the brothers sharp shooters blowing off the heads and other limbs of your comrades."

The LaRose case "demonstrates that terrorists are looking for Americans to join them in their cause, and it shatters any lingering thought that we can spot a terrorist based on appearance," said US Justice Department attorney Michael Levy in a statement.

In communications detailed in the indictment, LaRose is alleged to have said her appearance would allow her to "blend in with many people," adding it "may be a way to achieve what is in my heart."

Profile pictures on the "JihadJane" MySpace page include one showing a fair-skinned woman with blue eyes, her blond hair covered by a headscarf.

David Kris, assistant attorney general at the Justice Department's National Security Division, hailed the indictment and said the government would remain vigilant.

"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," he said.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 10 March 2010 10:05)

 

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