FOREIGN Samantha Lewthwaite, Omar Hammami and More Western Jihadists (PHOTOS)
It might seem contradictory for an organization intent on destroying the Western way of life to embrace outsiders into its ranks, but groups like al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Syrian rebel factions have been attracting outside converts for years. These now infamous Westerners, some imprisoned, some dead, some on the lam, are poster children for a new breed of homegrown extremism.
Clockwise from top left: IntelCenter/AP; Zuma Press; Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP Western Jihadists
On Monday, Kenyan authorities
noted the involvement of "two or three Americans" and a British woman in the brutal al Shabab-orchestrated massacre that killed 68 and wounded 175 in an attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall. It might seem contradictory for an organization intent on destroying the Western way of life to embrace the outsiders into their ranks, but groups like al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Syrian rebel factions, have been attracting outside converts for years. These now-infamous Westerners, some imprisoned, some dead, some on the lam, are poster children for a new breed of homegrown extremism.
On July 7, 2005, London was thrown into mayhem by a suicide bombing in Russell Square that killed 26. The man behind it was 19-year-old Jamaican Germaine Lindsay. His wife, Samantha Lewthwaite, a then-21-year-old Brit who initially feigned ignorance about the attack, has been on the run ever since. Now, with rumors of a Caucasian women directing the bloody siege on Nairobi's mall, she's suspected of being involved. Dubbed the
White Widow, Lewthwaite is a mother of three who trains female jihadists in Somalia and has served Al-Shabab as a financier and recruiter.
Adam Gadahn, a.k.a. Azzan al-Amriki
Adam Gadahn grew up in Oregon and California to parents of Christian and Jewish descent. In the late '90s, he took off for Pakistan and quickly became a top adviser to Osama bin Laden. Gadahn has frequently released videos expressing his hatred toward the United States, including one encouraging Muslim Americans to attack targets like Exxon and Bank of America and others thought to be used as recruitment tools for other Westerners. He has been rumored dead multiple times, but
resurfaced in August, calling for the deaths of American ambassadors.
SITE Intelligence Group/AP Colleen LaRose, a.k.a. Jihad Jane
Colleen LaRose, an original poster child for homegrown radicalism, currently sits in federal prison in Philadelphia awaiting sentencing. She was arrested in 2009 on terrorism charges and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder the Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Muhammad on a dog's body. The Texas-born LaRose was a victim of child abuse, which she later said led her down a troubled path of drugs and prostitution. Later, searching for meaning in her life, LaRose converted to Islam, dubbed herself Fatima LaRose and Jihad Jane on Internet forums, and began raising funds for Pakistani militants before flying to Europe to find the cartoonist. She was arrested as her plane touched down back in Philadelphia, where federal agents had lured her with the claim her mother was sick. She's apparently spent the past four years in solitary confinement.
David Friedman/Getty,David Friedman Jose Padilla
Brooklyn-born Jose Padilla grew up as part of the Latin Kings gang in Chicago and converted to Islam while serving a juvenile manslaughter sentence. He has already served more than 5 1/2 years of the
17-year, 4-month prison term handed down for his role in a plot to unleash a so-called radioactive dirty bomb that would kill and injure scores, but his case was recently appealed by the government in hopes of a longer sentence. Padilla was captured in 2002 and, under the title enemy combatant, held without charge for four years. Later, two suits, one against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld and the other against John Yoo, author of the Bush-era torture memos, for the torture he endured during detention were thrown out. Last year his treatment was described as "indisputably cruel" by a New York Times editorial.
American-born Islamist militant Omar Hammami was a popular, nonobservant young man of Muslim and Christian parents growing up in Alabama but became a zealous jihadi who traveled to Somalia to join Al-Shabab in 2006. Going by the nom de guerre of Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or "the American," he rose through the ranks, acquiring a $5 million FBI bounty on his head, until he suddenly began fearing for his life in 2012. In mid-September Hammami was allegedly killed by the group, which he had been butting heads with for quite some time and
had detailed the falling-out via Twitter.
Tariq Mahmood/AFP/Getty ,TARIQ MAHMOOD John Walker Lindh
John Walker Lindh was just a teenager when he converted to Islam and traveled to Yemen, Pakistan, and then the "the front line" of Afghanistan to train with al Qaeda and fight alongside the Taliban. He was captured in November 2001 by U.S. troops after a battle, covered in dirt, lying in a hospital bed. He's now serving a 20-year sentence in Indiana for helping the Taliban and carrying explosives. Walker Lindh later apologized for his involvement,
saying he didn't grasp that "jihad was anti-American or terrorism" and that "had I realized then what I know now ... I would never would have joined them." Janice Giles, CBS Detroit Nicole Lynn Mansfield
In June, when news of the death of an American women fighting with Syrian rebels surfaced, reports of Westerners making the pilgrimage to battle in the civil war were still rare. Now it's being called a
"jihad magnet." Nicole Lynn Mansfield was a 33-year-old Michigan resident who converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim man on the Internet five years prior. Her intent in the country has remained unclear, and Mansfield's family has denied that she was involved with terrorists. Syrian media claimed she was fighting with an al Qaeda affiliate, but outside media reported she was working with a group called Free Men of Syria.