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America's 'JihadJane' pleads guilty

world Updated: Feb 02, 2011 14:53 IST
AFP
America

An American woman who called herself "JihadJane" and surfed the internet to recruit jihad warriors on Tuesday admitted terror charges stemming from a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist.

Colleen LaRose simply replied "yes" when she was asked by US District Court Judge Petrese Tucker if she was now pleading guilty, after first denying the charges last year.

The 47-year-old pleaded guilty to terrorism, plotting to kill in a foreign country, lying to the FBI and attempted identity theft -- charges for which she could face life behind bars.

LaRose was arrested in October 2009 in a plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who unleashed a storm of protests from Muslims with his cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed seen as insulting to Islam.

US authorities have said the Pennsylvania resident, who discussed her conversion to Islam on her MySpace page, spent more than a year networking with would-be attackers around the world.

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

The Justice Department unsealed the indictment against LaRose in March 2010, just hours after Irish police arrested seven people accused of plotting to kill Vilks.

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

"Today's guilty plea, by a woman from suburban America who plotted with others to commit murder overseas and to provide material support to terrorists, underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face," said Assistant Attorney General David Kris.

Prosecutors allege in court documents that LaRose worked "obsessively" to network with other jihadists from her suburban Pennsylvania home, using names like "ExtremeSister4Live" and "SisterOfTerror."

Her efforts included researching ways to obtain citizenship in a European nation, and plans to marry fellow jihadists, a move that would give them the ability to travel throughout Europe.

The Department of Justice said LaRose had received a direct order to kill a Swedish national, and had traveled to Europe to track him online.

LaRose had allegedly bragged in one email that her blonde hair and blue eyes allowed her to go anywhere undetected, saying it was "an honor & great pleasure to die or kill for" jihad.

But on Tuesday her hair was noticeably darker in court, and LaRose had traded in the hijab she donned for Youtube videos for drab olive prison garb and laceless orange shoes.

LaRose's case has been seen as an indication of an alarming new development in which militants were drawn not from Muslim immigrant communities but from Americans born and raised in the United States.

The Department of Justice said LaRose and her co-conspirators recruited men on the Internet to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe.

They also sought to recruit women with passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe for the cause, it added.

A second woman, and a friend of LaRose, was also charged in the case after she flew back to the United States and surrendered to authorities.

Former Colorado resident Jamie Paulin-Ramirez was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. She is due to stand trial in May.

Lawyers in the LaRose case would not comment on whether she is cooperating with investigators in hopes of a reduced sentence. No date has yet been sent for when the sentence will be handed down.

According to prosecutors, LaRose has waived her right to remain silent and admitted the allegations with FBI investigators.