‘Jihad Jane’ admits to Lars Vilks murder plot

An American woman who called herself "JihadJane" pleaded guilty Tuesday to terror-related charges stemming from a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist.

'Jihad Jane' admits to Lars Vilks murder plot

Blonde-haired, blue-eyed 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 Muhammad seen as insulting to Islam.

US authorities have said the Pennsylvania resident, who recounted on her MySpace page how she converted to Islam, 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 Muhammad 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.

The Department 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 appearance allowed her to go anywhere undetected, saying it was “an honor & great pleasure to die or kill for” jihad.

The rash of cases of so-called home-grown terrorists is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States.

LaRose’s case was 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 on the Internet who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad, 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.

The Department of Justice said in April that the 31-year-old had traveled with LaRose “to and around Europe to participate in and in support of violent jihad.”

She is due to stand trial in May.

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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.