Jihad Jane case suggests rising threat from online 'jihobbyists'
'Jihobbyists' are people drawn to the online theater of violent jihad, becoming increasingly radical as they delve deeper into Web forums. Colleen LaRose, also known as 'Jihad Jane,' is an example of this threat, according to counterterrorism experts.
Gallery American Jihadis
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But according to counterterrorism experts, Ms. LaRose, who has not been connected with any organized militant group, represents the growing threat posed by “jihobbyists.” These are people drawn to the online theater of violent jihad, becoming increasingly radical as they delve deeper into the chat rooms and forums that espouse Al Qeada ideology.
According to the federal indictment against LaRose, she had pledged to commit murder in the name of jihad.
On Thursday, she pleaded not guilty to federal charges that she recruited men and women to wage attacks in Europe and Asia and plotted to murder a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the prophet Muhammad as a dog.
Unlike many of the other Americans currently facing terror-related charges, LaRose allegedly acted on her own without any training, associations with radical groups, or links to extremism beyond what her Internet connection provided.
“Both men and women who were once written off as hapless wannabes and mere ‘jihobbyists’ are unexpectedly rising to the occasion, in often quite desperate bids to prove their total commitment to the cause,” terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann recently wrote on the Counterterrorism Blog, a forum dedicated to counterterrorism issues.
“Their pedigree is less than elite, and they lack the traditional connections back to Al Qaeda's central leadership,” he wrote. “Yet, even Al Qaeda's senior echelon now openly recognizes the critical value of these potential 'lone wolf' operatives.”
Jarret Brachman, author of “Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice,” coined the term “jihobbyist” as a way to identify people who weren’t part of a group such as Al Qeada or Al Shabaab, the Somali militant group, but have a growing fascination with radical Islam.