The U.S. Justice Department has unsealed criminal terrorism charges against an American woman they say used the name "Jihad Jane" on the Internet. She is accused of plotting with terrorists to kill someone in Sweden as well as wanting to take part in a so-called global jihad against the west.
Federal prosecutors disclosed the charges Tuesday against 46-year-old Pennsylvania resident Colleen LaRose, also known to authorities as "Fatima LaRose" and "Jihad Jane."
The charges include conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
LaRose is said to have gone to Europe in August last year to join terrorists and carry out her alleged murder mission, before her arrest back in the United States in October, which was only made public Tuesday.
The 11-page indictment signed by Philadelphia-based U.S. Attorney Michael Levy also details email communication the woman allegedly had with contacts around the world including Europe and South Asia, as well as comments she allegedly made on the video sharing site YouTube, citing her intentions.
An American expert on homeland security, Professor Jonathan Acuff, says the case shows the Internet helps track down potential terrorists, wherever they may be.
"This allows us to track a lot of their behavior," said Jonathan Acuff. "It is probably one of the chief intelligence sources for most of our intelligence organizations."
The American woman who is said to have converted to Islam was quoted as saying she wanted to be a martyr. She was also quoted as saying she could use her American looks to easily blend in in Sweden to carry out a murder of an artist who was not identified. A U.S. official is quoted as saying the suspect LaRose is blonde with blue eyes.
The attorney Levy said the case shatters any thoughts that a terrorist can be spotted based on appearance.
European media outlets are reporting the American woman's target was cartoonist Lars Vilks. He has been receiving police protection as well as other threats after one of his cartoons was published in 2007 depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog.
U.S. officials did not confirm this and co-conspirators in the case were not immediately identified. Separately, seven Muslims, including three women, were arrested Tuesday in Ireland in connection with a plot to kill the cartoonist.
The homeland security expert, Acuff, who teaches at Saint Anselm College, says he fears there could be other terrorist recruits with profiles like "Jihad Jane".
"I think this is something that extremist Islamist groups will continue to try to do," he said. "They will try to recruit people who, for lack of a better way of putting it, look like the stereotypical western European or American and they are probably going to be successful at that. And we will look at eventually an attack that does have unfortunately some fatalities associated with it eventually."
If convicted, LaRose face a possible sentence of life in prison. Her initial court appearance was not immediately known.