Two New York City women inspired by ISIS were arrested Thursday for plotting to build a homemade bomb, authorities said.
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.
Until recently, Velentzas and Siddiqui were roommates from Queens. They are expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn later Thursday afternoon.
“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.”
Siddiqui was in possession of several propane gas tanks as well as instructions on how to turn them into explosive devices, according to the complaint.
“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.
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.
Valentzas also allegedly considered attacking the funeral for slain NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, according to the complaint.
“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.”
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.
Valentzas researched chemistry and how to build explosives at libraries and online, according to the complaint. The two also studied instructions on how to build a car bomb found in an al Qaeda propaganda magazine.
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.
“Velentzas 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.
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.