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"Jihad Jane" Indicted on Terror Charges in Pennsylvania

Update: On February 1, 2011, Colleen LaRose pleaded guilty to conspiracy to support terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, lying to investigators and attempted identity theft. On March 9, 2011, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez pleaded to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Posted: March 10, 2010

An American woman who allegedly recruited potential terrorists online is one of the first American females charged with terrorism offenses in the United States.  


A federal indictment unsealed on March 9, 2010, charged Colleen LaRose, 46, 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 pleaded not guilty to all charges on March 18, 2010.  She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. 


LaRose's case "underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face," according to David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.


LaRose, who lives in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, first drew the attention of federal authorities when, under the username "JihadJane," she commented on YouTube that she is "desperate to do something somehow to help" the suffering Muslim people. According to CNN, LaRose also followed the Web site of Revolution Muslim, a fringe anti-Semitic Muslim organization that justifies terrorist attacks and other forms of violence against non-Muslims.


LaRose also posted comments about Jews on several online forums. On a message board called Islamic Emirate Forum, LaRose criticized Adolf Hitler for not killing more Jews. "I mean look at the terrible things the jews (joos) have done to our Ummah… indeed they are a cancer to the world as a [sic] yes i [sic] wish Hitler would have finished the job," she said. In another post in response to an anti-Semitic comment made by a member of the Islamic Thinkers Society, a New York based group that justifies terrorist attacks and other forms of violence, LaRose wrote, "LOL@ bashing yahoods [Jews]...dont have ALL the fun akhi [brother], save some for others to terrorize.... BAAHAAHAAHAA!" LaRose's MySpace profile reportedly included the message: "I support all the Mujahideen [Muslim warriors] I hate zionist & all that support them!"


These comments are reminiscent of other remarks made by American Muslim extremists convicted in the U.S. of a wide-range of terrorism charges who have expressed a similar hatred of Israel and Jews.


The indictment filed against LaRose, who also goes by the name Fatima, outlined her extensive use of the Internet to recruit personnel and solicit financial support for terrorism.  In a series of e-mails exchanged from December 2008 through October 2009, LaRose and five unindicted co-conspirators from the U.S., Europe and South Asia allegedly discussed their plans to become martyrs in the name of Allah and ways to avoid travel restrictions by passport fraud and entering into false marriages.  LaRose and her co-conspirators also discussed the ease at which LaRose's nationality and physical appearance allowed her access to various locations and enabled her to "blend in with many people." 


The indictment further alleged that LaRose and her co-conspirators used the Internet to recruit men to wage "violent jihad" in Europe and South Asia.  They also allegedly scoured the Internet for women whose passports and nationalities would allow them to travel around Europe to support "violent jihad" without raising suspicion.


In March 2009, LaRose's co-conspirators allegedly tasked her with travelling to Sweden to kill a Swedish national "in a way that the whole Kufar [non-Muslim] world get frightened [sic].''  While the indictment did not reveal the identity of LaRose's intended target, news reports and American officials have identified Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist whose depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog were printed in a Swedish newspaper in 2007, as her target.  American officials have reportedly confirmed that LaRose discussed her plan with at least one of seven people who allegedly plotted to kill Vilks and were arrested in Ireland the same day her indictment was unsealed.


Among those arrested in Ireland – and released days later – was Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, an American convert to Islam from Leadville, Colorado.  Paulin-Ramirez was arrested again in Philadelphia on April 2, 2010, after returning to the U.S. and was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in a superseding indictment unsealed that same day.  According to the indictment, LaRose recruited Paulin-Ramirez, 31, to join the plot to kill the Swedish cartoonist and invited her to Europe to attend a "training camp."  Paulin-Ramirez's parents have also claimed that LaRose introduced their daughter, a Colorado-based nursing student, to her Algerian husband who was also arrested in Ireland.  Paulin-Ramirez, who also worked as a medial assistant, reportedly frequented Muslim Web sites and forums and developed an Internet friendship with Najibullah Zazi, a U.S. permanent resident who has since pleaded guilty to plotting an attack against the New York City subway system for Al Qaeda.  Paulin-Ramirez, who faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted, has pleaded not guilty.


Vilks' drawing of Muhammad with the body of a dog was published a year after a Danish newspaper printed other cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, offending many Muslims and triggering riots and protests in Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.  In January 2010, a Somali man wielding an axe broke into the home of Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist, and attempt to kill him.  The previous October, U.S. authorities disrupted an American's citizen's plot to attack Westergaard and the offices of the Danish newspaper.


LaRose moved from the U.S. to Europe in August 2009, carrying with her a stolen American passport that she planned on providing to someone else to "facilitate an act of international terrorism," according to the Department of Justice.  Once in Sweden, LaRose allegedly tracked her target on the Internet and joined an online community that he hosted.  During that time, LaRose was also asked by one of her co-conspirators to send money to Somalia.  She was arrested at the Philadelphia International Airport after returning from Europe on October 16, 2009.


LaRose's case "demonstrates that terrorists are looking for Americans to join them in their cause," U.S. Attorney Michael Levy stated following the unsealing of LaRose's indictment, "and it shatters any lingering thought that we can spot a terrorist based on appearance."


Few other American women have been arrested on terror-related charges in the United States


  • Zeinab Taleb-Jedi, a naturalized American citizen from Iran, was indicted in a New York federal court in September 2006 for providing material support to the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.  Taleb-Jedi allegedly served on the terrorist group's military leadership council and attended its training camp in Iraq in the late 1990s.

  • In February 2005, defense lawyer Lynne Stewart was convicted in New York of providing material aid to terrorists, perjury and defrauding the government for passing messages between convicted terrorist Omar Abdel Rahman, who plotted to blow up New York landmarks in 1993, and his militant followers in Egypt. 

  • Carole Gordon and her granddaughter Brandy Jo Bowman were among eleven people charged in January 2003 for their involvement in a cigarette smuggling ring that funneled its proceeds to Hezbollah

  • Also in 2003, American-born October Martinique Lewis was sentenced in Oregon to three years in prison for laundering money to six men who were attempting to join the Taliban to fight American forces.
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