INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO. 638
The case of Colleen La Rose also known as Jihad Jane and Fatima La Rose, who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a fortnight after the arrest of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in October,2009, and indicted on March 4,2010, on a charge of involvement in a conspiracy to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had drawn a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in his paper, has not received in India the attention it deserves.
2. Colleen La Rose, a 46-year-old blonde from the Philadelphia area, where Headley used to live for some years before shifting to Chicago, had a troubled personal life. She was a volunteer for jihad who was recruited by an unidentified person in South Asia through the Internet and given the task of killing the Swedish cartoonist, just as Ilyas Kashmiri initially tasked Headley through the Internet to kill the Danish cartoonist, who had published cartoons of the Prophet in a Danish paper in 2005. Headley subsequently met Ilyas in North Waziristan. There is so far no indication that Jihad Jane had met her South Asian recruit to whom she got engaged without ever having met him.
3. Whoever initially recruited Headley and Jihad Jane seems to have done so for two reasons. Firstly, both of them had typical physical features of a White American. They did not look like Muslims and could , therefore, easily evade profiling. Headley looked a typical White despite his Pakistani origin. Jihad Jane is a typical White with no mixed blood. Secondly, both of them are US nationals with valid US passports with which they could travel easily without facing difficulties in obtaining visas and in going through immigration controls.
4. Both of them had been given double tasks. Headley was given the tasks of facilitating the operations of the LET in India and attacking the office of the Danish paper in Copenhagen with the help of sleeper cells in Europe to which Ilyas had given introduction. Headley had played an active role in helping the LET in carrying out the terrorist strikes in Mumbai between November 26 and 29,2008.Jihad Jane had the dual task of killing the Swedish cartoonist with the help of Ireland-based contacts in Europe and organising acts of terrorism in South Asia. In the evidence against her, the reference is to South Asia and not specifically to India.
5. The FBI has revealed the nationalities of her seven accomplices who were picked up in Ireland, but not their identifying particulars.Of the seven arrested in Ireland two are Algerians, two Libyans, a Palestinian, a Croatian, and an American woman married to one of the two arrested Algerians. The FBI documents available so far do not say anything about her South Asian fiancee. They are silent even about his nationality. He has been described as a man who claimed that he knew how to work with bombs and explosives.
6.In June 2008, Jihad Jane had posted a comment on YouTube saying she was “desperate to do something somehow to help” suffering Muslims. According to the FBI indictment, she appears to have been contacted by the jihadis thereafter. The indictment charges that she received a direct order to kill a Swedish resident. She traveled to Sweden and tracked the target with the intent of carrying out the murder. The FBI identified the target as cartoonist Lars Vilks.In an e-mail message to a co-conspirator, she wrote that she would pursue her mission “till I achieve it or die trying,” according to the indictment.The indictment accuses her of agreeing, in March 2009, to marry a co-conspirator from a South Asian country who was trying to obtain residency in Europe.He allegedly urged her to go to Sweden, find the Swedish man "and kill him". The indictment claims she tried to raise money over the internet, lure others to her cause, and lied to FBI investigators.
7. According to US media reports, she is also linked to an online organization Revolutionmuslim.com -- where she was a subscriber, again using the name Jihad Jane. The site is run by an American Muslim, who had made the following posting after she was indicted: "Sisters -- please consider sending her [LaRose] a message of support and hope and let's remind her she isn't alone. It's likely she's the only Muslimah there. As always, use discretion when writing, don't ask pointed questions, and of course don't say anything that could create problems for her or yourselves."
8.She has been accused not only of conspiring to murder the cartoonist, but also of allegedly trying to recruit women with Western passports to marry fellow violent jihadists and of raising money for terrorist causes.
9.The US Department of Justice has issued the following statement regarding her indictment:
"The indictment charges that LaRose (an American citizen born in 1963 who resides in Montgomery County, Pa.) and five unindicted co-conspirators (located in South Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the United States) recruited men on the Internet to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe, and recruited women on the Internet who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad.
"The indictment further charges that LaRose and her unindicted co-conspirators used the Internet to establish relationships with one another and to communicate regarding their plans, which included martyring themselves, soliciting funds for terrorists, soliciting passports and avoiding travel restrictions (through the collection of passports and through marriage) in order to wage violent jihad. The indictment further charges that LaRose stole another individual’s U.S. passport and transferred or attempted to transfer it in an effort to facilitate an act of international terrorism.
"In addition, according to the indictment, LaRose received a direct order to kill a citizen and resident of Sweden, and to do so in a way that would frighten "the whole Kufar [non-believer] world." The indictment further charges that LaRose agreed to carry out her murder assignment, and that she and her co-conspirators discussed that her appearance and American citizenship would help her blend in while carrying out her plans. According to the indictment, LaRose traveled to Europe and tracked the intended target online in an effort to complete her task."
10.Available details regading the indictment do not identify the South Asian "with knowledge of bombs and explosives" with whom she fell in love through the Internet and who recruited her for acts of terrorism in Sweden and South Asia, but the available particulars of the modus operandi of recruiting and using non-Muslim looking Whites for terrorist strikes point the needle of suspicion at the LET.
11.This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of January 28,2010, titled "Female Headleys in Al Qaeda?" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers37/paper3631.html ( 3-4-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )