Teen tied to Jihad Jane allegedly plotted school shooting

Emerson Begolly, the Penn State student Mohammed K. chatted with online, has been arrested in an unrelated case.
Emerson Begolly, the Penn State student Mohammed K. chatted with online, has been arrested in an unrelated case. (MySpace / ABC News)
Posted: August 28, 2011

The Maryland teenager secretly arrested by the FBI for allegedly conspiring with the woman from the Philadelphia suburbs known as Jihad Jane also spoke of a Columbine-style plot with a Pittsburgh-area friend in a jihadist chat room, according to sources and documents.

"I had a lot of thoughts about you today," the teen, Mohammed K., wrote to his Western Pennsylvania pen pal late last year. "About us both doing martyrdom operations together in my school. . . . It was like we both were in a big truck and had guns and we were shooting randomly at a huge crowd of kids."

The chats provide new insight into a boy who at age 15 allegedly began helping Colleen LaRose, the 48-year-old "Jihad Jane" from Pennsburg, who U.S. officials say represents a disturbing new face of homegrown terrorism.

Mohammed K. was 17 and a high school senior in Ellicott City, Md., when he allegedly wrote those threatening words. The Inquirer is not publishing his last name because he is a juvenile.

Mohammed's chat room friend was Emerson Begolly, a Pennsylvania State University student who was soon charged with soliciting unrelated terror attacks. Transcripts of the chats were publicly filed in that case.

During the Nov. 22 chat, Mohammed told Begolly he lived near National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.

"The place where I live is a HOTBED of NSA and all the security agencies of Amrika [sic]," Mohammed wrote. "And the kids who study in my school proudly state that their parents work in NSA and FBI, and even carry key chains - piss me off."

"Like Columbine?" Begolly asked.

"Na'am, lol" Mohammed wrote, using the Arabic word for "yes" and Internet slang for "laughing out loud."

It could not be determined Saturday whether the authorities took any immediate action based on the threatening remarks, which were reported to the FBI by an anti-jihadist group's blog, "The Jawa Report."

Neither Jeffrey Lindy, the Philadelphia lawyer representing Mohammed K., nor FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver would comment. Police and school officials in Howard County, Md., could not be reached.

Juvenile cases in federal court are rare, and terror cases rarer still. Federal law prohibits government officials from discussing them.

In February, LaRose pleaded guilty to terror-conspiracy charges as part of a failed plot to kill a Swedish artist whose cartoon of the prophet Muhammad with a dog's head had insulted many Muslims.

Seven alleged coconspirators were arrested in Ireland, and Jamie Pauline Ramirez of Leadville, Colo., has pleaded guilty in Philadelphia to providing support to terrorists.

The LaRose indictment does not cite Mohammed by name, but uses a code name to allege that he helped her raise money and recruit others for a jihad.

According to another court document, LaRose sent Mohammed her boyfriend's U.S. passport, which she had stolen for the jihad plot. Mohammed hid it at school.

After LaRose's arrest, Mohammed was repeatedly questioned by the FBI but not arrested until July. His detention was first made public Friday by The Inquirer.

Relatives say the teenager was duped twice - first by LaRose and then by FBI agents. They said the FBI questioned Mohammed at least eight times without a lawyer or parent present. The boy's parents, recent immigrants from Pakistan who do not speak much English, gave permission for him to meet with the agents, but relatives now say the parents did not understand the consequences.

"He is innocent," a relative told The Inquirer last week. "He is not a criminal. Bad people on the Internet changed his mind."

The family, which lives in a modest apartment west of Baltimore, emigrated to give their four children a better education. Like his siblings, Mohammed excelled in school, winning scholarships based on his creative-writing skills, and was accepted to Johns Hopkins University.

"I really think he thought this was fantasy," a relative said. "He didn't actually do anything or hurt anybody."

His parents had chastised him for spending too much time online, worrying that he was distracted from his studies.

Mohammed appeared to allude to that during the Nov. 22 chat with Begolly, a 22-year-old former neo-Nazi who had become a jihadist.

"My family was watching me like every second today."

Begolly, of New Bethlehem, Pa., has pleaded guilty to using the chat room to solicit terrorists to use explosives and propane tanks to target police stations and railways.

Online, Begolly and Mohammed also discussed taking hostages and how to use weapons and bulletproof vests. They also wrote dark poetry.

At one point, Mohammed cited advice from the al-Qaeda magazine Inspire. "We should strike the snake at its head." At another, he hesitated when asked whether he was prepared to strike immediately. "I wouldn't get too excited. I think practice comes first."

The transcripts also show that the boy continued to chat long after LaRose's arrest and that he suspected he was under surveillance.

"FBI [is] keeping a close eye on my online activities," he wrote. "I was scared out of my wits . . . if they saw what was inside [the computer] the FBI would come knocking the doors, which they would do soon anyway . . . but I think my immaturity let me do things out of order."


Contact staff writer John Shiffman at 301-320-6655 or jshiffman@phillynews.com.

 

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