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'Jihad Jane' Colleen LaRose Became a Terrorist for Love

Researcher explains why she exchanged letters with Jihad Jane and shoe bomber Richard Reid, and what she learned.

Jihad Jane, the American-born Muslim convert convicted of plotting to kill a cartoonist who satirized the Prophet Muhammad, says she was motivated by love — and feminine pride.

In a jailhouse letter to a criminologist, Colleen LaRose gave no sense that she regrets the crimes that landed her in federal lockup for 10 years.

"Why did I do what I was convicted of?" LaRose wrote in response to a query from Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, who plans to write a book based on the correspondence, which she shared with NBC News.

"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," she wrote.

"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."

Image: Handout photo of Colleen LaRose, known by the self-created pseudonym of "Jihad Jane"
Colleen LaRose, known by the self-created pseudonym of "Jihad Jane", is pictured in this photo released by Site Intelligence Group on March 10, 2010. ite Intelligence Group viReuters

LaRose, 51, who called herself Jihad Jane online, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to murder a foreign target, supporting terrorists and lying to the FBI and got a reduced sentence in exchange for cooperating with investigators.

She admitted that she plotted to kill Lars Vilks, an artist who drew Muhammad's face on a dog's head in a cartoon, outraging many Muslims.

Mehlman-Orozco, who has a doctorate in criminology from George Mason University, wrote to LaRose well before last week's terrorist attack on a satirical Paris magazine that had stoked similar outrage with cartoons of Muhammad.

She sent letters to 17 people convicted in the U.S. of terrorist-related crimes with the goal of writing a book about how they view their crimes and whether that could improve counter-terrorism techniques.

Twelve of the prisoners did not get the letters because of prison restrictions. Of the five who did, four wrote back: LaRose; Richard Reid, the British national serving life for trying to blow up a plane with a shoe-bomb in 2001; and two brothers convicted in 2008 of a plot to attack soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

"In order to understand why these things are happening we need to look at the crime through their eyes," Mehlman-Orozco said.

The Fort Dix brothers, Shain and Eljvir Duka, responded with letters that professed their innocence. Reid sent a three-page reply in which he spouted jihadi justifications while tackling the question of any connection between Islam and terrorism.

"For the Muslim, our religion teaches us that if our religions or lands are attacked, it is our duty to defend them — if necessary with our lives," he wrote. "So 'terrorism' is simply a tactic which has been employed in that regards, mostly due to the fact that it's the only weapon we have."

Image: Shoe Bomb Suspect
28-year-old alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid is shown in this December 24, 2001 police photograph. Plymouth County Jail / Getty Images

LaRose — an abuse victim who became entranced with Islam after a one-night stand with a Muslim in 2007, according to a Reuters investigation of her case — clung to the same logic, blaming U.S. military operations in the Middle East and "Zionists" for sparking terrorism.

"Just think of it like America was invaded and occupied by enemy forces and these forces killed men women and children and caused many families to loose [sic] their homes," LaRose wrote.

"If this type of thing happen in America of course Americans would fight back and do what has to be done to end the occupation of their land."

Mehlman-Orozco, who started her own non-profit dedicated to human-trafficking and immigration, said she is still waiting for new letters from LaRose and Reid, including answers to their view of the Paris carnage.

"I think there is some value in understanding how they perceive it," she said.