A high-school drop out, an honour student, a single mother. Women with vastly different lives, who ultimately careened down a similar, dark path.
A path that means their faces aren’t just in family photo albums or on social media, but on an international database alongside some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
The Counter Extremism Project’s Terrorists and Extremists Database catalogues known leaders and operatives around the globe as part of the organisation’s efforts to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies.
Among the 400 or so listings are a handful of women, featured for crimes ranging from recruitment and propaganda to foreign fighting.
One of the most notorious among them is Colleen LaRose, a woman most would know as “Jihad Jane”.
The American citizen and convicted extremist served as an online recruiter and fundraiser for an Ireland-based al Qaeda cell from her home in Pennsylvania in 2008/9, before travelling to Ireland with the intention of assassinating Lars Vilks – the Swedish cartoonist notorious for controversial illustrations depicting the prophet Muhammad.
The plan fell through, and LaRose was arrested upon her return to the US.
The years prior to LaRose's terrorist activity were filled with torment and tragedy; she was allegedly sexually abused by her own father from the age of 7 to 13, at which point she left home and became a sex worker, according to Reuters.
It's believed she later self-radicalised after streaming lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the late al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) cleric, and subsequently linked up with operatives online.
At her January 2014 sentencing hearing (which saw her jailed for ten years), LaRose apologised for blindly following her handlers: "I was in a trance and I couldn't see anything else," she said according to Reuters. "I don't want to be in jihad no more."