Last week, three U.S. citizens were arrested abroad for engaging in Jihadist activities, raising fears that homegrown terrorism is on the rise in the United States. On Wednesday, Irish police announced that they arrested a U.S. citizen who plotted along with six others to kill Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body. Colleen Renee LaRose from Philadelphia, 46, who calls herself “Jihad Jane,” was arrested for plotting to murder Vilks, as well as for conspiring to provide support to terrorists, making false statements, and attempting identity theft.
The following day, Yemeni authorities announced the arrest of U.S. citizen Sharif Mobley, 26, on charges of being an al-Qaeda operative. Mobley, who is of Somali origin, was raised in New Jersey but moved to the Middle East approximately two years ago. Of great concern, Mobley worked at 5 U.S. nuclear plants before leaving the country. Authorities are currently investigating his access level, and whether he could have obtained sensitive information useful to terrorists.
In addition, on Sunday, reports surfaced about a second American citizen arrested in connection with the alleged attempt to kill the Swedish cartoonist. Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, 31 from Colorado, moved to Ireland with her son after converting to Islam last year. According to reports, Paulin-Ramirez brainwashed her son to believe “Christians will burn in hell.” Her parents told reporters that their grandson is enrolled in “a fire-breathing Muslim school in Ireland” that teaches him how to build pipe bombs and shoot a gun.
While there is no evidence yet of an organized terrorist network operating in the United States, the growing reality that Americans are linking up with radicals abroad is certainly troubling. As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Laura Grossman note, “in recent years, over two hundred men and women born or raised in the West have participated in, or provided support for Islamic terrorist plots and attacks.” Moreover, according to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the threat of homegrown terrorism increased during 2009, and more U.S. citizens are “becoming radicalized to the point of violence.” Indeed, unless homegrown terrorists’ motives are understood and a plan to prevent the spread of militancy is created and implemented, this number has the potential to continually grow.