A white Islamic militant who christened herself 'Jihad Jane' and was convicted of plotting to kill a cartoonist who satirized the Prophet Muhammad, has claimed her actions were motivated our of love.
Colleen LaRose, 51, of Pennsberg, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to charges including planning a jihad and conspiring to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks in 2011 and was convicted in 2014.She was sentenced to ten years in prison, but in a recent letter to a criminologist, LaRose said love was behind her crimes.LaRose wrote in response to a query from Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, who shared the letter with NBC News.'Why did I do what I was convicted of?' she wrote. 'There's many reasons but the simplest reason is I did it for love.'Love for my Prophet, love for my Ummah [community] and love for the brother that gave me the assignment.'Also I think I did it for pride. Sisters are never given assignments like the one I was given. I felt my brother had enough confidence and trust in me that he honored me by giving me the assignment. I felt if he loved me that much then I had to do what he told me needed to be done.'
Mehlman-Orozco wrote to LaRose months before last week's terrorist attack on the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after it had published cartoons of Muhammad.The criminologist wrote to several people convicted in the U.S. of terrorist-related crimes.She has since begun correspondences with LaRose and Richard Reid, the British national serving life for trying to blow up a plane with a shoe-bomb in 2001.Mehlman-Orozco plans to ask both of them for their views on the bloodshed in Paris.'I think there is some value in understanding how they perceive it,' she told NBC. Ultimately she plans to turn the letters into a book.LaRose admitted to plotting to kill Lars Vilks, an artist who drew Muhammad's face on a dog's head in a cartoon, outraging many Muslims.Raped as a child, she ran away from home to become a prostitute at 13. She told Reuters in 2013 that militant Islam gave her a 'place where I belonged.'
'When I found out about Islam I thought this is what I have to do, this is why I've lived so long.'LaRose also explained the difficulties of her early life in Detroit, Michigan, leaving her as emotionally vulnerable adult.At around eight years old LaRose, and her older sister Pat, was raped by her father Richard LaRose.The sexual abuse continued until LaRose ran away from at 13. The girl then worked in prostitution and developed heroin and cocaine addictions.At 16, LaRose married a man twice her age, but just a year later she turned up at a shelter for teens in Memphis and was committed to a psychiatric facility for several months.While at this shelter she worked with counselor Ollie Avery Mannino. When Mannino rang Richard LaRose to check Colleen's story, her father answered with hesitation: 'Yeah. I raped her.'
As Reuters journalist John Shiffman, who spent six months investigating the case, wrote: 'He said it sharply, without remorse, and in such a prideful, guttural tone that Mannino snapped her head, stunned.'Richard LaRose died in 2010, having never been prosecuted for his crimes.Collen LaRose continued to drift, split from her first husband, and married again at 23. This relationship ended in divorce 11 years later.LaRose claims that her father's abuse ruined her life: 'I have done all kinds of bad things. I was rebelling because of what he did and because my mother did nothing to help us.'LaRose became radicalized and posted under the name Jihad Jane on militant Islamic websites.When Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks portrayed the Prophet Muhammed with the body of a dog in 2007 put a £67,000 bounty on the head of the artist.In constant contact with al-Qaida operatives around the world, LaRose swore to travel to Europe and kill Vilks.
According to her indictment, she wrote: 'I will make this my goal till I achieve it or die trying.'LaRose recruited other Americans, such as Jamie Paulin-Ramirez of Colorado and Mohammad Hassan Khalid of Maryland to her jihad cause.She got to Sweden in 2009 but was arrested by the FBI on her return to the U.S.While LaRose claims she got close to killing Vilks and achieving martyrdom, John Schiffman of Reuters claims: 'In truth, what happened proved more farcical than frightful, more absurd than ominous.'