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‘Jihad Jane was in Ireland for a fact-finding trip‘

'Jihad Jane’, the mastermind behind the alleged plot to murder controversial Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks, spent two weeks in Ireland on a fact-finding mission.

Colleen LaRose, who described herself as Jihad Jane in her YouTube video seeking accomplices to help with her plans, was in the country last September and kept under surveillance by the Garda.

During her visit she was in regular contact with the 49-year-old Algerian, who was the prime suspect of the seven arrested by Gardai on Tuesday morning.

She was monitored in the company of the Algerian and his Kansas-born partner in Cork city and in Waterford.

She had flown to Ireland from the Netherlands where she began her trip to Europe after earlier inquiring how she could acquire residency in Sweden.

LaRose (46) was arrested by FBI agents when she returned home and stepped off a plane at Philadelphia international airport on October 16 last year.

She was taken into custody but her detention was not revealed until details of the charges against her were disclosed in court there.

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She was indicted on charges of conspiring to provide support to Islamic extremists with whom she allegedly plotted to kill the Swedish artist.

Among those she was alleged to have been in contact with through emails and chat rooms on the internet was the 49-year-old Algerian and her correspondence and computer and phone traffic was regularly monitored by US agents after she first came to their attention through the You Tube video in June 2008.

After her return to Philadelphia, gardai became involved in a major international investigation into the suspected plot to kill Mr Vilks. This five-month investigation culminated in Tuesday's raids on seven houses, an office and a bakery in Waterford city, Tramore and Ballincollig in Cork city.

The suspects also include two other Algerians, a Libyan, a Palestinian and a Croatian. Officers are still carrying out background checks on the suspects, including their involvement in compulsory military service in their home countries.

Garda specialists, meanwhile, are closely examining computers, mobile phones and documentation seized in the raids to build up intelligence on the suspects and determine what communications had been established with others under observation overseas.

Despite the threats, Mr Vilks (63) was busy discussing the controversy in chat rooms yesterday. Asked why he had drawn Mohammad as a dog, he said he wanted to see what was allowed in art.

He said he did not regret his actions and said it was a question that had led to a necessary debate.

Asked if he was afraid of the death threat, he said : “no, it seems that these people are low-tech”. He said he regarded himself as a “best friend” of the Muslims.

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