Two women in Queens, New York were arrested on 2 April on terror charges brought by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. According to NBC 4 New York, the women are accused of discussing planting bombs in the United States, although there was no specific terror plot or active explosive device found.
The suspects were identified by court papers as 28-year-old Noelle Velentzas and 31-year-old Asia Siddiqui. They allegedly conspired online to detonate an explosive device somewhere in the US. Velentzas allegedly praised the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and referred to Osama bin Laden and his mentor, Abdullah Azzam, as her heroes, NBC 4 New York reported.
According to WABC, a criminal complaint revealed Siddiqui was in possession of multiple propane tanks and instructions on how to transform the tanks into explosive devices at the time of her arrest. The two women, who were US citizens and former roommates, had been in contact with an undercover informant in the case, the complaint reported.
Siddiqui had been in "repeated contact with members of the foreign terrorist organisation Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ('AQAP') to offer her support," the complaint said. She became close with a prominent figure of AQAP, Samir Khan, in about 2006 and in 2009 wrote a poem for Jihad Recollections, a predecessor for Khan's Inspire magazine.
The federal document also revealed Velentzas supported jihadist ideology and expressed her interest in terrorism during several conversations with the undercover agent. NBC reported Siddiqui told the undercover agent that Velentzas "has been obsessed" with pressure cookers following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
Velentzas, who claimed she had received a pressure cooker as a "present," allegedly told the undercover agent: "You can fit a lot of things in [the pressure cooker], even it it's not food."
According to the criminal complaint, Velentzas told the undercover agent in June 2014 they needed to learn how to take someone's weapon from them and how to fight against multiple people. She allegedly said: "If we get arrested, the police will point their guns at us from the back and maybe from the front. If we can get even one of their weapons, we can shoot them."
In a statement released by the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, United States Attorney Loretta E Lynch said, "We are committed to doing everything in our ability to detect, disrupt, and deter attacks by homegrown violent extremists.
"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 terrorise the American people, whether by traveling abroad to commit attacks overseas or by plotting here at home."
FBI assistant director in charge Diego Rodriguez added: "The defendants allegedly plotted to wreak terror by creating explosive devices and even researching the pressure cooker bombs used during the Boston Marathon bombing. We continue to pursue those who look to commit acts of terror and deter others who think they are beyond the reach of law enforcement."