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U.S.: Pennsylvania woman tried to recruit terrorists

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Who is Colleen LaRose?
  • NEW: Official says Swedish cartoonist was target
  • Justice Department says Colleen LaRose, five others developed plans for martyrdom
  • She could receive life sentence, $1 million fine

Washington (CNN) -- A Pennsylvania woman has been indicted for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and kill a person in a foreign country, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Colleen LaRose, known as "Jihad Jane" and "Fatima LaRose," has also been charged with making false statements to a government official and attempted identity theft.

She was arrested in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 15, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said. No arraignment date has been set, the official said.

LaRose is being held at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

LaRose and five unindicted co-conspirators recruited men on the Internet "to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe, and recruited women on the Internet who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad," according to a Justice Department statement.

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If convicted, LaRose faces a possible life prison sentence and a $1 million fine, the statement said.

The conspiracy began in June 2008, when LaRose posted a comment on YouTube under the username JihadJane saying she is "desperate to do something somehow to help" Muslims, according to the indictment unsealed Tuesday.

From December 2008 to October 2009, LaRose engaged in electronic communication with the five co-conspirators about their shared desires to wage jihad and become martyrs, according to the indictment.

Read the indictment (PDF)

LaRose and the co-conspirators, according to the statement, used the Internet to establish relationships with each another and develop plans "which included martyring themselves, soliciting funds for terrorists, soliciting passports and avoiding travel restrictions (through the collection of passports and through marriage) in order to wage violent jihad."

According to a U.S. government official familiar with the case, LaRose was successful in recruiting some people to join the cause. She also was able to raise money, the official said, adding that she was in contact with committed jihadists in South Asia, Western Europe and Eastern Europe. The official declined to link her to any specific terrorist organizations.

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LaRose, the indictment claims, stole a U.S. passport at one point in order to "facilitate an act of international terrorism."

She received "a direct order to kill a citizen and resident of Sweden, and to do so in a way that would frighten 'the whole Kufar [non-believer] world.' "

The indictment does not identify the Swedish resident, but a government official familiar with the case acknowledged that Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was the intended target. Justice Department officials declined to comment.

"I will make this my goal till I achieve it or die trying," LaRose said via electronic communication, according to the indictment.

LaRose, along with the co-conspirators, believed that "her appearance and American citizenship would help her blend in while carrying out her plans, calling it a possible "way to achieve what is in my heart," according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that LaRose even agreed to marry one of the co-conspirators to obtain residency status in a European country.

LaRose traveled to Europe in August and "tracked the intended target online in an effort to complete her task," the statement said.

According to the indictment, LaRose told the co-conspirator who ordered the murder that she considers it an "honour & a great pleasure to die or kill for" the co-conspirator and pledged that "only death will stop me here that I am so close to the target."

The killing did not occur, and LaRose was arrested about two weeks after the electronic message was sent.

Mark Wilson, a federal public defender representing LaRose, declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

LaRose, according to the Justice Department, was born in 1963 and lives outside Philadelphia in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

CNN's Carol Cratty and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.