Monday 20 November 2017

'Jihad Jane' to testify here in terror trial

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

AN American divorcee who styled herself as Jihad Jane and plotted to kill a Swedish cartoonist could return to Ireland as a star witness if a suspected Islamic terrorist faces trial.

Colleen LaRose, a 47-year-old carer from Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in the United States last week to plotting to kill Lars Vilks, who offended Muslims by depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a dog in his drawings.

Gardai have obtained detailed testimony from LaRose -- who also admitted to recruiting and inciting -- about her contact with other suspected Jihadists while on a two-week trip to Ireland in September 2009. They include a Muslim living in Waterford, whom she befriended online, and another couple whom she stayed with in Co Cork.

Unknown to LaRose, she was under surveillance by undercover detectives throughout her two-week trip. She was arrested by the FBI on her return to the United States.

Seven people she had contacted in Cork and Waterford were subsequently arrested under the anti-terrorism law.

Gardai are recommending that the suspected Islamic terrorist, a man, face charges in a file that was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). If the prosecution goes ahead, the trial will be the first under the Terrorist Offences Act of 2005.

The Sunday Independent has learnt that gardai travelled to the United States as part of their investigation, and sat in on interviews with LaRose conducted by the FBI while she was in custody.

Her detailed testimony was included in the file submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions last month. Other evidence includes emails and other internet exchanges, including internet traffic referring to explosives and firearms and email contact between Jihad Jane and one of the seven suspects who was arrested.

LaRose pleaded guilty in a Philadelphia court last week to terrorism-related charges, including conspiracy to murder a foreign target, conspiracy to support terrorists and lying to the FBI.

Garda sources said that LaRose's admissions formed one of the main planks of the case along with the internet evidence. He said that if charges proceed, she may be asked to testify in person if required.

Waterford's unlikely link to international terrorism unfolded when LaRose's online Jihad activity attracted the attention of the FBI from 2008. She was a live-in carer for her boyfriend's elderly father in the small suburban town of Penburg in Pennsylvania.

By night she went online where prosecutors said she tried to "communicate with, and recruit and incite" other jihadists. She came up with her online name of Jihad Jane and also went under the pseudonym ExtremeSister4Life.

The FBI was already on to her when she left Penburg for Europe in August 2009. Online postings revealed that she had planned to marry a southern Asian man so that he could move to Europe, and who also talked online of becoming a martyr. She plotted with others to try to kill the cartoonist, Mr Vilks, at one point travelling to Sweden.

As the FBI followed her movements, special branch gardai were tipped off when it emerged that she was on her way to Ireland in September. She was under surveillance for the entire trip and was arrested by the FBI when she returned to the United States. Five months later, gardai arrested seven suspects in Cork and Waterford hours before LaRose was publicly charged with terrorist offences in the United States. Those arrested included two Algerians, two Libyans, a Palestinian, a Croatian and an American woman.

According to court reports, LaRose, who is less than 5ft tall, spoke quietly as she admitted her guilty plea to the judge last week, confirming that she was of sound mind and had never been treated for mental health problems.

Sunday Independent

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