US ‘Jihad Jane’ linked to plot to kill cartoonist

An American woman known as "Jihad Jane" was charged by US authorities on Tuesday with conspiring to kill Swedish Muhammad cartoonist Lars Vilks, government sources told CNN.

US 'Jihad Jane' linked to plot to kill cartoonist

The woman, named as Colleen LaRose was arrested in Philadelphia on October 15th 2009, but he involvement was confirmed by US authorities only hours after Irish police arrested seven people accused of plotting to kill the Swedish artist, who courted controversy in 2007 for for drawing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.

In her indictment released by the US Justice Department on Tuesday it is shown that LaRose 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.”

Over the course of at least a year, she is alleged to have used the internet to recruit men in South Asia, Europe and the United States for terror attacks.

She 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.”

The indictment alleges LaRose received two messages in March 2009 from an individual in a South Asian country instructing her to kill an unnamed Swedish resident. A US government official confirmed to CNN that the target was Vilks and the charges relate to Tuesday’s arrests in Ireland.

“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.

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

The indictment alleges that LaRose – born in 1963 – last March “sent an electronic communication to the Swedish embassy asking for instructions on acquiring permanent residency status in Sweden.”

She is also said to have “traveled to Europe with the intent to live and train with jihadists” in August 2009.

In September 2009, LaRose allegedly sent a message reiterating her commitment to kill, adding “only death will stop me here that i am so close to the target.”

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 heros 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 harbouring 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 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 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.


Swedish artist Lars Vilks, known for Muhammad cartoon, killed in car accident

Swedish artist Lars Vilks, known for his cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as well as his huge wooden sculptures, died in a car accident on Sunday.

Swedish artist Lars Vilks gives a lecture
Swedish artist Lars Vilks, pictured here giving a lecture in 2015, died in a car collision on Sunday. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The 75-year-old has lived under police protection due to death threats over his 2007 Prophet Muhammad drawing. He and two police officers were killed in a collision with an oncoming truck, Swedish police confirmed to AFP, and the accident is currently not being treated as suspicious.

“This is being investigated like any other road accident. Because two policemen were involved, an investigation has been assigned to a special section of the prosecutor’s office,” a police spokesperson told AFP, adding that there was no suspicion of foul play.

The accident occurred near the small town Markaryd when the car Vilks was travelling in crashed into an oncoming truck. Both vehicles caught fire and the truck driver was sent to hospital for treatment, according to police. In a statement, the police said the cause of the accident was unclear.

“The person we were protecting and two colleagues died in this inconceivable and terribly sad tragedy,” said regional police head Carina Persson.

Vilks had been under police protection since 2010, after his cartoon of Muhammad with a dog’s body published in Swedish newspapers three years earlier prompted outrage among those who consider depictions of the Muslim prophet deeply offensive or blasphemous. Al-Qaeda offered a $100,000 reward for Vilks’ murder.

The depiction also sparked diplomatic friction, with Sweden’s then prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt meeting ambassadors from several Muslim countries to ease tensions. In 2015, Vilks survived a gun attack at a free-speech conference in Copenhagen that left a Danish film director dead.

While the Muhammad drawing is what Vilks was best known for internationally, he was primarily a sculptor.

His most significant work is the driftwood sculpture Nimis, which he began building in a Skåne national park in 1980.

This work was also not without controversy; Vilks built it illegally without acquiring a permit, sparking a legal dispute with local authorities who demanded it be destroyed. The artist sold both Nimis and a second artwork, and although he was fined for building them, and Nimis was badly damaged in a 2016 fire, they remain largely standing today.