July 21, 2017
An Algerian-born man suspected of recruiting a Montgomery County woman in a failed terrorist plot to assassinate a Swedish artist appeared Friday in district court in Philadelphia.
Ali Charaf Damache was extradited to Philly from Spain on charges that he conspired to give material support and resources to terrorists, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Damache is believed to have recruited Colleen "Jihad Jane" LaRose, a Pennsburg, Montgomery County native, to help him in a failed plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who had depicted the Prophet Muhammad with a dog's body.
Damache was indicted in 2011 in a conspiracy that included LaRose and others to "kill overseas," prosecutors said in the statement.
LaRose, who would become known as "Jihad Jane," pleaded guilty in 2011 to supporting the terrorist group, conspiring to murder a foreigner and lying to the FBI. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014.
She eventually left the group and called an FBI tip line seeking money to return home, but she still spoke admirably about Damache at her sentencing hearing, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"I had so much respect for him. I had this emotional attachment to him," she told U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker. "He was so brave."
Damache is believed to be the first foreigner brought to U.S. soil to face terrorism charges under President Donald Trump's administration.
According to the release, Damache, co-defendant Mohammad Hassan Khalid, LaRose and others planned to provide material support and resources, including logistical support, recruitment services, financial support, identification documents and personnel to the conspiracy.
Damache and others also coordinated a jihad organization of men and women from the U.S. and Europe, and recruited men and women through the internet to "wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe," prosecutors said.
Damache was arrested on unreleased charges in Ireland in March 2010.
When Damache was still in Ireland in 2015, he won a two-year legal battle there to avoid extradition to the United States and was released shortly thereafter.
But he was arrested in Spain later that year on a warrant issued by the United States after U.S. officials heard Damache was living in Barcelona and saw he was changing hotels every few days, the Inquirer reported at the time.
A New York Times report on Damache's appearance on Friday noted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said terrorism suspects should be held and prosecuted at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba instead of in civilian courtrooms.