Update: How Irena from Bjelovar became Mrs. Awlaki
I recently blogged about the strange case of “Amina,” the Croatian convert to Islam who reportedly left her home, got hitched to the infamous Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, and inadvertently played a key role in his getting set up for death in a complex Danish-US intelligence operation. Since Awlaki’s UAV-induced flameout in September 2011, his widow is reputed to be helping edit the glossy AQ fanmag Inspire to keep the dream alive … or something. There have been some doubts about Amina’s true identity, as my post explained.
Those doubts can now be laid to rest, as the Croatian daily Večernji list has reported that “Amina” is actually 35 year-old Irena Horak. Born and raised in Bjelovar, a sleepy town about an hour east of Zagreb (I once spent a weekend in Bjelovar … a very long weekend), Irena abandoned her native Catholic faith in a sudden conversion thanks to a British Muslim man whom she met in Zagreb. However, displaying all the legendary zeal of a convert, Irena/Amina soon found her boyfriend too staid for her newfound taste in jihad, and she quickly abandoned him in favor of stronger, or at least more fanatical, men like the good Imam Awlaki, whom she met in a Salafi version of online romance.
There seem to be no obvious signs of any predisposition to fanaticism by Irena, who we have learned was a noted athlete and a track standout in Bjelovar, and her parents and twin sister apparently had no idea what to think when the school teacher suddenly abandoned her entire life and disappeared to Yemen to marry her online paramour, who happened to be an AQ higher-up. Her family claims to have heard nothing from Irena in several years, and until a few days ago they had no idea she was the notorious “Amina” that the Croatian press has been agog about for the last couple weeks. Her high school boyfriend, too, has expressed disbelief that the gentle, sporty blonde of his memory became a jihad fanatic and bride of one of the world’s top terror propagandists.
Guess you never can tell how people will turn out. This is still a developing story, which is slowly coming into focus. Irena/Amina seems to be yet another cliched case of life transformation through radical Islam gone very wrong. Ms Horak’s self-starting jihad took an odd turn indeed. More as we have it …