Suspect in cartoonist death plot spent two weeks here
'Jihad Jane' kept under surveillance during trip
Published 11/03/2010 | 05:00
'Jihad Jane', the mastermind behind the alleged plot to murder controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, spent two weeks in Ireland on a fact-finding mission.
Colleen LaRose, who described herself as 'Jihad Jane' in her YouTube video seeking accomplices to help with her plans, was in the country last September and kept under surveillance by gardai.
During her visit, she was in regular contact with a 49-year-old Algerian, who was the prime suspect of the seven arrested by gardai on Tuesday morning.
She was monitored in the company of the Algerian and his Kansas-born partner in Cork city and in Waterford.
She had flown to Ireland from the Netherlands where she began her trip to Europe after inquiring how she could acquire residency in Sweden.
LaRose (46) was arrested by FBI agents when she stepped off a plane at Philadelphia international airport on October 16. She was taken into custody but her detention was not revealed until details of the charges against her were disclosed in court there.
She was indicted on charges of conspiring to provide support to Islamic extremists with whom she allegedly plotted to kill the Swedish artist.
Among those she was alleged to have been in contact with through emails and chat rooms on the internet was the 49-year-old Algerian and her correspondence and computer and phone traffic was regularly monitored by US agents after she first came to their attention through the YouTube video in June 2008.
After her return to Philadelphia, gardai became involved in a major international investigation into the suspected plot to kill Mr Vilks. Officers worked in close co-operation with the FBI, the CIA, British security agencies, the Swedish security police, Sapo, Dutch police and north African forces.
Inquiries were carried out into the background of the Algerian, his American partner and their acquaintances here and they were also kept under regular surveillance. This five-month investigation culminated in Tuesday's raids on seven houses, an office and a bakery in Waterford city, Tramore and Ballincollig in Cork city.
The suspects also include two other Algerians, a Libyan, a Palestinian and a Croatian.
Officers are still carrying out background checks on the suspects, including their involvement in compulsory military service in their home countries.
Last night, gardai were granted permission at a special sitting of the district court to extend the detention period of some of the four men and three women for a further three days. The rest of the applications were still before the court last night.
Under section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act they can be held without charge for a maximum of seven days.
Garda specialists, meanwhile, are examining eight computers, mobile phones and documentation seized in the raids to build up intelligence on the suspects and determine what communications had been established with others under observation overseas.
Despite the threats, Mr Vilks (63) was discussing the controversy in chat rooms yesterday. Asked why he had drawn Mohammad as a dog, he said he wanted to see what was allowed in art.
He said he did not regret his actions and said it was an important question that had led to a necessary debate.
Meanwhile, the indictment against 'Jihad Jane' also charges her with conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, making false statements to a government official and attempted identity theft. If she is found guilty, LaRose, from Montgomery County, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $1m (€732,000) fine.