'Jihad Jane' linked to Irish plot

Wed, Mar 10, 2010, 00:00

Gardaí believe a Pennsylvania woman arrested in the US travelled to Ireland last year to recruit people for a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist.

Colleen R LaRose, who also went by the pseudonym of 'Fatima LaRose' and 'Jihad Jane', has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder overseas, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, making false statements and attempted identity theft.

Yesterday, gardaí arrested seven people in connection with an alleged plot to kill Lars Vilks over a 2007 drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammed with the body of a dog.

Mr Vilks was put under police protection in 2007 after his drawings prompted al-Qaeda to put a $100,000 bounty on his head. The sketches, originally produced for exhibition, were later published by Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, to accompany an editorial criticising galleries in Sweden for refusing to show them.

The suspects, four men and three women, are being held at Garda stations in counties Waterford and Kilkenny. They were arrested during a major search operation at 10 addresses in Waterford and Cork yesterday morning. Those arrested are from Algeria, Croatia, Palestine, Libya and the US. They are aged in their mid-20s to late-40s.

Detectives in Ireland have been working on the case since late last year with their counterparts in the US and Europe, including Sweden.

The Irish Times understands the suspects were taken into custody on the basis of information supplied to the Garda by the FBI that came to light after surveillance of the suspects’ communications, including emails. The US investigators believe the alleged leader of the group is one of the Algerian men. He has been living in Ireland for the past decade.

The US Justice Department said Ms LaRose posted a comment on YouTube in June 2008 that she wanted to help "the suffering Muslim people". She sent emails to unnamed co-conspirators offering to become a martyr as well as to use her American background to avoid detection, according to the indictment filed in a federal court in Pennsylvania.

The indictment accused Ms LaRose of agreeing in March 2009 to marry a co-conspirator from a South Asian country and try to obtain residency in Europe. He urged her to go to Sweden, find the unnamed Swedish man "and kill him".

The US Justice Department declined to comment on whether the arrests of Ms LaRose and the seven people in Ireland were connected. However, The Irish Times understands gardai believe Ms LaRose travelled to Ireland last year to recruit people to join the plot to kill Mr Vilks.

In the Pennsylvania case, Ms LaRose was accused of traveling to Europe in August 2009 and tracking online her intended murder target in Sweden, according to the indictment. It also said she tried to raise money over the internet, lure others to her cause and lied to FBI investigators.

After returning to the United States, Ms LaRose was arrested in October 2009 on a charge related to the theft of a US passport, court documents showed.

If convicted on the four counts in the indictment, which was dated March 4th, 2010, Ms LaRose could face a sentence of life in prison and a $1 million fine.

Additional reporting: AP