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Two New York City women arrested in alleged bomb plot

NEW YORK: Two New York City women have been arrested in an alleged conspiracy to build a bomb and wage a “terrorist attack” in the United States, according to a federal criminal complaint made public on Thursday.

Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, risk facing the rest of their lives behind bars if convicted of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction in the United States.

The pair, roommates in Queens, were shadowed for nearly two years by an undercover FBI agent and are scheduled to appear before a magistrate at the federal district court in Brooklyn on Thursday.

Siddiqui was “in possession of multiple propane gas tanks, as well as instructions for how to transform propane tanks into explosive devices,” a copy of the complaint states.

Prosecutors say the pair supported violent jihad, with Siddiqui writing a poem in an Al-Qaeda magazine as early as 2009 and Velentzas calling Osama bin Laden one of her heroes, allegedly keeping a picture of the Al-Qaeda mastermind on her mobile phone.

Velentzas recently described the two women as “citizens” of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group fighting in Iraq and Syria, prosecutors said.

They communicated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, and watched videos of beheadings carried out by IS extremists in Syria, the complaint said.

Velentzas allegedly said she did not understand why people were travelling overseas to fight when “there were more opportunities of ‘pleasing Allah’ in the United States,” prosecutors said.

She was Facebook friends with former US Air Force mechanic Tairod Pugh, 47, who pleaded not guilty in a separate IS alleged plot before a Brooklyn court last month.

John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter-terrorism of New York police, confirmed that two women were arrested early Thursday.

Praise for 9/11 attacks

In a self-proclaimed effort to “make history,” prosecutors said the pair researched previous attacks and acquired some components of bombs used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

As with the ethnic Chechen brothers accused of bombing the Boston Marathon in April 2012, the women allegedly had online jihadist instructions on how to make explosive devices.

“We remain firm in our resolve to hold accountable anyone who would seek to terrorize the American people,” said Loretta Lynch, Attorney General nominee and current US attorney for the eastern district of New York.

Siddiqui was also allegedly close to Pakistani-American citizen Samir Khan, who went on to edit Al-Qaeda’s English-language “Inspire” magazine and was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.

In conversations with the undercover FBI officer, the pair allegedly discussed building a bomb to carry out a terror attack and efforts to avoid detection by the government.

Velentzas praised the 9/11 attacks, and was allegedly “obsessed” with pressure cookers, which were used to bomb the Boston Marathon.

Velentzas once suggested they needed to learn the science behind explosives to avoid the fate of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistan-American who attempted to blow up Times Square in 2010.

She once allegedly pulled a knife from her bra and demonstrated to Siddiqui and the agent how she would stab someone if attacked.

Thursday’s arrests are the latest in a string of alleged plots inspired by Islamic extremists.

Last week, two cousins were arrested in Chicago for allegedly conspiring to wage war on behalf of IS jihadists.

The women are the sixth people to appear in federal courts in Brooklyn over alleged IS-inspired terror plots since mid-March.

US intelligence officials warned in February that more than 20,000 volunteers from around the world, including more than 150 Americans, had gone to Syria to link up with extremists. – AFP

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