2 Women Arrested In New York City For Alleged ISIS-Inspired Terror Plot

Feds: Noelle Velentzas, Asia Siddiqui Plotted To Build, Detonate Homemade Bomb, In US

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Two Queens women inspired by ISIS were arrested Thursday for plotting to build a homemade bomb, authorities said.

As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, former roommates Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, conspired to prepare an explosive device they planned to detonate in a terror attack in the U.S., according to court documents.

“We are committed to doing everything in our ability to detect, disrupt, and deter attacks by homegrown violent extremists,” stated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. “As alleged, the defendants in this case carefully studied how to construct an explosive device to launch an attack on the homeland. We remain firm in our resolve to hold accountable anyone who would seek to terrorize the American people, whether by traveling abroad to commit attacks overseas or by plotting here at home.”

Web Extra: Read the complaint (.pdf)

Noelle Velentzas (left) Asia Siddiqui appear in U.S. District Court on charges of plotting terror. (Credit: CBS2)

Noelle Velentzas (left) Asia Siddiqui appear in U.S. District Court on charges of plotting terror. (Credit: CBS2)

Velentzas and Siddiqui, both U.S. citizens, appeared in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn late Thursday afternoon. In court, Valentzas gave loud, quick answers to the judge, while Siddiqui could barely muster a whisper, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

Siddiqui’s attorney, Thomas Dunn, spoke briefly outside court.

“My client will enter a plea of not guilty if and when there’s an indictment, and she and I will address everything in the courtroom where it belongs,” Dunn said.

The women were ordered held in federal custody after the hearing.

The complaint against the women details an alleged plot in the making to bomb the U.S.

“These defendants allegedly engaged in sustained efforts to obtain bomb-making instructions and materials, including using instructions provided by al Qaeda’s online magazine,” said police Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Authorities said the Jamaica, Queens women had several propane tanks – as well as instructions to turn them into explosive devices.

But the FBI was on to them.

“They did find writings on the Internet from one of the women several years ago, and that was one of the reasons they were being monitored and followed,” said U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) “But it shows how the Internet is really becoming a new weapon for terrorists.”

Siddiqui was also known as “Najma Samaa” and “Murdiyyah,” according to the complaint.

Valentzas praised the 9/11 terror attacks to an undercover operative, according to the complaint, saying being a martyr in a suicide attack guarantees entrance into heaven. Valentzas used a picture of Osama bin Laden holding an AK-47 as the background image on her cellphone, according to the complaint.

Valentzas took an interest in pressure cookers following the Boston Marathon bombing, according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, Valentzas said, “You can fit a lot of things in (the pressure cooker), even if it’s not food,” and then pointed to a thick rope and axe.

Valentzas also allegedly considered attacking the funeral for slain NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, according to the complaint. She allegedly said the funerals would be an “attractive target” for killing officers.

“If we get arrested, the police will point their guns at us from the back and maybe from the front,” Valentzas allegedly said. “If we can get even one of their weapons, we can shoot them. They will probably kill us, but we will be martyrs automatically and receive Allah’s blessings.”

“It’s just another example ISIS being able to recruit Americans here in the homeland, capable of attacking our country – and it’s done primarily over the internet,” King said.

Siddiqui was close with a prominent member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the complaint, and repeatedly was in contact with the terror group.

Authorities said the suspects made a big deal of the fact that the attempted car bomb attack on Times Square in 2010 by Faisal Shahzad was a failure.

The women allegedly said they wanted “to learn how the science behind explosives worked” so they could top Shahzad, “who tried to blow up Times Square in Manhattan with a car full of explosives but was unable to detonate the explosives.”

Thus, Valentzas allegedly researched chemistry and how to build explosives at libraries and online, including the Anarchist Cookbook, according to the complaint.

The two also studied instructions on how to build a car bomb found in an al Qaeda propaganda magazine.

“We read chemistry books with breakfast,” an undercover agent allegedly said. “Like, who does that?”

Valentzas watched ISIS beheading videos on the Internet, the complaint alleges. She also visited the CBS New York website to read an article on a bill that would outlaw homemade explosives.

“If [the government] was to put all the information about the three of us together, we legitimately, to these people, look like a cell,” Valentzas allegedly said, referring to Siddiqui and an undercover operative.

“Valentzas and Siddiqui are alleged to have researched how to construct bombs as part of their conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction on American soil,” said Assistant Attorney General John Carlin. “Identifying and disrupting such threats to public safety, whether at home or abroad, is the number one priority of the National Security Division and our partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities.”

John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism for the NYPD, indicated that other anti-terror cases are also in the works.

“There are always others in the pipeline, including after this case,” Miller said.

U.S. terror officials emphasized they believe Valentzas and Siddiqui were a real threat.

“They appeared to have the explosive materials necessary for a pressure cooker bomb; propane-type bomb,” King said. “These were serious terrorists.”

As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, Valentzas lives on Inwood Street in Queens, where her neighbor, Kenny, said he did not know about any of the facts allegedly linking her to terrorism. But he said he did find her strange.

He said a year or so ago, he saw her pacing up and down on his side of the street – chanting and praying out loud.

“I was suspicious of them. I really was. I’m not going to lie. I was very suspicious,” he said, “because she dressed everything covered; nothing showing but just her eyes. All black.”

Siddiqui now lives about 15 minutes away on 84th Road, D’Auria reported. Two of her neighbors said they wish she would go back to wherever she came from.

But as CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, some neighbors were alarmed that the woman who lived next to them was charged with such a plot.

“It’s so sad,” said neighbor Fargana Parveen. “I just was like, why are they doing this?”

Students at York College in Queens were also shocked to learn that Siddiqui had graduated from their school.

“It hits too close to home,” said York College student Angela Senat.

The news follows a series of arrests of terror suspects allegedly inspired by ISIS.

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh of New Jersey was recently arrested for trying to join ISIS in Syria, authorities said. His arrest followed the arrest of three Brooklyn men who also allegedly attempted to join the terror group and wage jihad abroad, or commit terror attacks domestically if they were unable to.

Pugh and Valentzas were friends on Facebook, according to the complaint.

Siddiqui and Velentzas face life in prison if convicted.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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