A former Pennsylvania resident who billed herself as “Jihad Jane” on the Internet was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday after pleading guilty to conspiring to provide material support to Islamic militants.
The woman, Colleen LaRose, had also pleaded guilty to plotting to kill a Swedish illustrator who had created a cartoon offensive to many Muslims that depicted the Prophet Mohammed’s head on the body of dog.
She also admitted to making false statements to FBI agents and to stealing her boyfriend’s US passport to facilitate what US officials charged would be “an act of international terrorism.”
Much of Ms. LaRose’s federal court file remains under seal, but based on her indictment and a government sentencing memorandum, the Muslim convert apparently confined most of her conspiratorial efforts to Internet communications.
There is no indication in the court file that she actually traveled to Sweden to carry out a plan to kill the cartoonist as discussed in Internet communications. Instead, federal officials say only that she “traveled to Europe and tracked the intended target online in an effort to complete her task.”
Investigators in the US worked with authorities in Ireland and Sweden on the case.
According to prosecutors, LaRose sought to use the Internet to recruit men to carry out violent jihad in South Asia and Europe. She also allegedly sought to recruit women with passports that would allow them to travel easily to and around Europe.
The charges in LaRose’s four-count indictment carried a potential life sentence and $1 million fine.
According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, LeRose carried out her plot to provide material support in 2008 and 2009 when she “worked obsessively on her computer to communicate with, recruit, and incite other jihadists.”
Among her online aliases were: JihadJane, Fatima LaRose, ExtremeSister4Life, and SisterOfTerror.
She used multiple e-mail accounts, YouTube accounts, and websites “to publish jihadist literature and videos, to communicate and join up with others who supported violent jihad, to raise funds for terrorists, to recruit other violent jihadists, and to plan an overseas murder in furtherance of violent jihad,” prosecutors said.
US officials say LaRose accepted an assignment by an unnamed co-conspirator to murder the Swedish cartoonist.
The request came in March 2009 via the internet, according to federal court documents. “Go to Sweden … find location of [the cartoonist] … and kill him … this is what I say to u.”
Court documents say LaRose responded the same day: “I will make this my goal till I achieve it or die trying.”
The co-conspirator added one additional request: “Kill [the cartoonist] in a way that the whole Kufar [non-Muslim unbeliever] world get frightened.”
LaRose was sentenced by US District Judge Petrese Tucker in Philadelphia.
“Today, Colleen LaRose is being held accountable for her efforts to provide support to terrorists and encourage violence against individuals overseas,” said John Carlin, acting assistant attorney general for national security, in a statement.
“This case clearly underscores the evolving nature of the terrorist threat we now face in this country,” added Zane David Memeger, US attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“The Internet has made it easier for those who want to attack the American way of life to identify like-minded individuals to carry out their terroristic plans,” he said.
“While today’s significant sentence will help protect the community from any future threat posed by the defendant, we as a nation must remain vigilant in identifying and stopping others who are susceptible to engaging in acts of homegrown violence extremism,” he said.