What to Know
- 2 NYC women pleaded guilty in connection to plan in which they sought to build explosive devices similar to those in prior terrorist attacks
- Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas, both citizens of the United States and residents of Queens, pleaded guilty Friday
- The women face up to 20 years in prison each when they are sentenced
Two Queens women pleaded guilty in connection to a plan in which they sought how to build explosive devices similar to those used in prior terrorist attacks in the United States, federal prosecutors say.
Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas, both citizens of the United States and residents of Queens, pleaded guilty Friday, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, to teaching and distributing information pertaining to the making and use of an explosive, destructive device, and weapon of mass destruction, intending that it be used to commit a federal crime of violence, the Department of Justice announced.
The women face up to 20 years in prison each when they are sentenced.
Prosecutors say that between 2013 and 2015, Velentzas and Siddiqui planned to build a bomb to use in a terrorist attack in the United States.
In an effort to further their plan, prosecutors say, the women taught each other chemistry and electrical skills related to creating explosives and building detonating devices; conducted research on how to make plastic explosives and how to build a car bomb; and shopped for and acquired materials to be used in an explosive device.
The two discussed similar devices used in past terrorist incidents, including the Boston Marathon bombing, Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 World Trade Center attack, and they researched potential targets of attack – honing in on law enforcement and military-related targets, prosecutors say.
Additionally, Siddiqui wrote submissions to a radical jihadist magazine edited by Samir Khan, a now-deceased prominent figure and member of the designated foreign terrorist organization, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), prosecutors say.
Meanwhile, Velentzas similarly adopted violent rhetoric, praising the attacks of 9/11 and stating that being a martyr through a suicide attack guaranteed entrance into heaven, according to prosecutors.
The women were arrested in 2015 in a sting operation involving a New York Police Department undercover officer posing as a convert to Islam. The female officer befriended the defendants in 2013 and wore a wire to record their conversations.
At the time of their arrests, law enforcement officers seized propane gas tanks, soldering tools, car bomb instructions, jihadist literature, machetes and several knives from their residences, according to prosecutors.
“Inspired by radical Islam, Velentzas and Siddiqui researched and taught each other how to construct bombs to be used on American soil against law enforcement and military targets,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said in a statement. “They were thwarted by the excellent work of the agents, analysts and prosecutors who are responsible for this investigation and prosecution. For this, we are grateful.”
Meanwhile, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said the pleas were “not only a welcome end to this years-long investigation, but a credit to the” agencies that worked together to apprehend the women.
“Velentzas and Siddiqui were intent on waging violent jihad here in the United States, researching at length historical terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, educating themselves on how to turn propane tanks into explosive devices, and dreaming up plans to kill Americans on our own turf,” Sweeney’s statement read in part.
“This investigation and the subsequent guilty pleas are yet another example of how each day the NYPD and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force remain vigilant and relentless in their efforts to protect New York City and keep America safe,” NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement.