NEW YORK — Two women were arrested today on charges they plotted to wage violent jihad by building a homemade bomb and using it for a Boston Marathon-type terror attack, prosecutors said.
One of the women, Noelle Velentzas, had been “obsessed with pressure cookers since the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013” and made jokes alluding to explosives after receiving one as a gift, according to a criminal complaint.
The complaint unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn names Velentzas and her former roommate Asia Siddiqui as the targets of an undercover investigation into a homegrown terror plot.
The women were expected to make initial court appearances later today on charges of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, an explosive device, somewhere in the United States. It was unclear if the women had attorneys who could comment on the charges.
The women repeatedly expressed support for violent jihad during conversations with an undercover investigator wearing a wire, according to a complaint.
In 2009, Siddiqui, 31, wrote a poem in a magazine published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula that declared there is “no excuse to sit back and wait –– for the skies rain martyrdom”, investigators wrote in court papers. Velentzas, 28, called Osama bin Laden one of her heroes, and said she and Siddiqui were “citizens of the Islamic State”, they said.
Since 2014, the pair plotted to build an explosive device to use in a terrorist attack on American soil, the complaint says. They “researched and acquired some of the components of a car bomb, like the one used in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing; a fertilizer bomb, like the one used in the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City; and a pressure cooker bomb, like the one used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing,” authorities wrote.
At the time of her arrest, Siddiqui was “in possession of multiple propane gas tanks, as well as instructions for how to transform propane tanks into explosive devices”, the complaint says.
After two New York City police officers were gunned down in a patrol car in December, Velentzas told an undercover officer that the deaths showed it was easy to kill a police officer, according to the complaint. She said killing an officer was easier than buying food “because sometimes one has to wait in line to buy food”, according to the complaint.
The arrests came the same day as another American citizen was brought from Pakistan to New York to face charges he supported a conspiracy to kill Americans. Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh appeared today in Brooklyn federal court and was held without bail. His lawyer did not comment. Authorities say Al Farekh conspired to support efforts to kill Americans and United States military members abroad.
They follow another New York case announced last month in which a US Air Force veteran was accused of scheming to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
Tairod Pugh, 47, had recently been fired from his job as an aeroplane mechanic. Prosecutors said he travelled from Egypt to Turkey to ultimately cross the border but was turned away. His attorney has said he would plead not guilty.
Also in March, three other men pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court to terrorism charges in a plot to travel from New York to Syria via Turkey to join the Islamic State group.