March 9, 2010 — -- A suburban Pennsylvania woman known by the alias "Jihad Jane" has been arrested and charged with trying to recruit Islamic fighters and for plotting to assassinate a Swedish cartoonist who made fun of the Prophet Mohammed, according to a federal indictment unsealed today.
Colleen R. LaRose, 46, of Montgomery, Pa., described by neighbors as an average "housewife," is better known to federal authorities as "Fatima Rose" or "Jihad Jane."
The indictment, obtained by ABC News, charges LaRose with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill in a foreign country.
She is also accused of making false statements to a government official and of attempted identity theft, a passport she allegedly stole with the intention of giving to an Islamic fighter.The court papers claim that LaRose reached out through the Internet to jihadist groups saying she was "desperate to do something to help" suffering Muslim people, and that she desired to become a martyr.
She stated in her e-mails "that her physical appearance would allow her to 'blend in with many people' which 'may be a way to achieve what is in my heart,'" the indictment states.
In her e-mails with five unindicted co-conspirators in South Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, LaRose allegedly agreed to recruit men -- and to recruit women -- for jihad, to raise money for Islamic fighters, and agreed on the Internet to one jihadist's request to "marry me to get me inside Europe."
In March 2009, the indictment states, she allegedly received a directive to "got to sweden... find location of [Resident of Sweden]... and kill him... this is what i say to u."
Federal officials identified the target as Lars Vilks, who had drawn Prophet Muhammed with the body of a dog.
LaRose replied, "I will make this my goal till I achieve it or die trying," according to court documents.
She traveled, according to the indictment, on or around Aug. 29, 2009 to Europe "with the intent to live and train with jihadists" and to "find and kill" Vilks. In September, she joined an online community hosted by Vilks and eventually moved into Vilks' artist enclave in Sweden.
'Jihad Jane' Could Face Life in Prison
On Sept. 25, she received an email from one of her jihadi contacts stating, "The brothers are ready," and she replied on Sept. 30 that she considered it "an honor and great pleasure to die or kill" for her contact, and pledged that "only death will stop me here that I am so close to the target," the indictment claims.
It's not clear what happened after that, but LaRose was arrested near her Pennsylvania home on Oct. 16. The case was disclosed today after a series of arrests in the past 48 hours, authorities said.
"This case shows the use terrorists can and do make of the Internet," said U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy in a statement. "LaRose – an American citizen whose appearance was considered to be an asset because it allowed her to blend in – is charged with using the Internet to recruit violent jihadist fighters and supporters, and to solicit passports and funding."
"This case demonstrates that the FBI and our partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities must continue to remain vigilant in the face of the threats that America faces, in whatever form those threats may present themselves or no matter how creative those who threaten us try to be," said Special Agent-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI. "We must use all available technologies and techniques to root out potential threats and stop those who intend to harm us."
If convicted of the charges, LaRose faces a potential sentence of life in prison and a $1 million fine.
LaRose is the latest American who allegedly has professed allegiance to jihad.
Major Nidal Hasan killed 12 soldiers at Fort Hood last November after he was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan. He fired on the unarmed soldiers after a series of communications with militant Muslim cleric Abu Bakr al-Awlaki, who is hiding in Yemen.
Last June, Muslim convert Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad fired on a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., in what he later said was a jihad attack on the U.S. military. One U.S. soldier was killed and one wounded in the assault.
One of the most wanted men of the al Qaeda hierarchy is Californian Adam Gadahn.