In my adopted home state, the toxic fumes of Islamic jihad have penetrated the most unlikely hamlets and hinterlands. Obama administration officials are vehemently denying plots by ISIS operatives to cross our borders. But the lesson here is clear: Thanks to laptop recruitment, reckless visa policies and homegrown treachery, the U.S.-based jihad export-import business is and has been thriving.
Last week, 19-year-old Shannon Conley of Arvada (a Denver suburb once known as the "Celery Capital of the World") pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Conley, a militant Muslim convert, plotted to aid al-Qaida and its affiliates. According to the federal criminal complaint filed in April, she planned to use her military training with the U.S. Army Explorers "to go overseas to wage jihad" and "to train Islamic jihadi fighters in U.S. military tactics." A certified nurse's aide, she also told investigators she would use her medical training to aid jihadi fighters.
Over the Internet, Conley met an ISIS-affiliated Tunisian Muslim based in Syria. She was headed there on April 8 when the feds arrested her at Denver International Airport. Her luggage contained jihad propaganda, materials on administering first aid on the battlefield, and CDs and DVDs bearing the name of Anwar al-Awlaki, the jihadi counselor to the 9/11 hijackers and Fort Hood gunman Nidal Hasan.
Conley's not the first Colorado woman to go jihad. In January, Muslim convert Jamie Paulin-Rodriguez was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for providing material support to terrorists. The 31-year-old nurse practitioner left her home in Leadville, a tiny old silver-mining town perched at 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, to marry an Algerian terror plotter in Ireland. The man, Ali Damache, was a recruiter for North Africa's al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. He brainwashed Rodriguez's then 6-year-old son (fathered by an illegal alien from Mexico) to build pipe bombs, shoot guns and declare war on Christians and "kafirs" (pejorative for non-Muslims).
Like Conley, "Jihad Jamie" was radicalized in online forums and chatrooms. That's how she met fellow "Jihad Jane" collaborator Colleen LaRose, who enlisted her in a conspiracy to murder Swedish cartoonist and outspoken critic of Islam, Lars Vilks.
LaRose also introduced Rodriguez to another Colorado Muslim avenger, New York City subway bomb plotter Najibullah Zazi.
Zazi, a 24-year-old Denver airport shuttle driver who lived in suburban Aurora, was a green-card holder from Afghanistan. He flew back to his native land to join the Taliban in 2008, but was snatched up by al-Qaida leaders to lead suicide bomb operations back in the U.S. He acquired explosives in Denver, which he drove to New York City as part of the plot to bomb Manhattan subway lines in September 2009. Zazi's scheme was part of a larger conspiracy involving al-Qaida pilot Adnan Shukrijumah. The two huddled with top jihad operatives in Pakistan. As I noted earlier this month, Shukrijumah is still on the loose with a $5 million FBI bounty on his head.
Jihad's Colorado ties can also be traced to Pakistani militant cleric Sheik Mubarak Ali Gilani, the leader of terror group Jamaat ul-Fuqra. (It was Gilani whom Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was traveling to interview when he was kidnapped and beheaded in 2002.) Gilani once visited and owned land in Colorado tourist hot spot Buena Vista. Ul-Fuqra established a nearby high-altitude training compound, where terror operatives stored AK-47 rifles and an estimated 6,000 rounds of ammunition. The camp was raided by local and federal law enforcement officials in 1992; a quartet of homegrown jihadists were convicted of various crimes, including the firebombing of a Hare Krishna temple in Denver in 1984. Another ul-Fuqra weapons storage facility was busted in Colorado Springs.
Al-Qaida also reached into the northern Colorado town of Greeley, where the Muslim Brotherhood's founding father Sayyid Qutb attended Colorado State College of Education (now the University of Northern Colorado) in the 1950s. His exposure to the friendly, freedom-loving farming community engendered his virulent hatred of the West, leading him to declare that "an all-out offensive, a jihad, should be waged against modernity. ... The ultimate objective is to re-establish the Kingdom of God upon earth." His acolytes range from Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki to the Blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (now behind bars in Colorado's supermax prison in Florence for plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) and the new generation of caliphate warriors.
The decades-long spread of Rocky Mountain jihad is instructive. From the Big Apple to the Beltway to the Mile High City, there is no safe haven from Muslim terrorism. They and their willing accomplices are already here -- and have been for a good, long time.