Two Women From Queens Charged With Plans To Make Weapon of Mass Destruction

Two women from Queens New York pleaded guilty Friday morning 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,” according to a Department of Justice Press release. Both women were inspired by radical Islamist terrorist organizations and intended to follow through with their plans to commit a violent act on U.S. soil, prosecutors stated.

Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas, both U.S. citizens, entered there guilty plea before United States District Court Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. and could face up to 20 years in prison when sentenced.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers.  “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.”

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill stated in a press release that the “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.”

According to the DOJ, between 2013 and 2015, the women were planning to build a bomb to use in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Both women studied and “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 DOJ stated.

Further, they “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, focusing on law enforcement and military-related targets,” federal law enforcement officials added.

Siddiqui’s interest in violent terrorist-related activities was reflected in her written 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).

“Velentzas similarly espoused violent rhetoric, praising the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and stating that being a martyr through a suicide attack guaranteed entrance into heaven.  Velentzas specifically singled out government targets stating, “you go for the head” when you commit a terrorist attack,” according to the press release.

Law Enforcement Seizes Bomb Making Equipment

Law enforcement officers seized “propane gas tanks, soldering tools, car bomb instructions, jihadist literature, machetes and several knives from their residences,” when the women were arrested.

U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said the pair were intent to “implement their violent, radical ideology, the defendants studied some of the most deadly terrorist attacks in U.S. history, and used them as a blueprint for their own plans to kill American law enforcement and military personnel.”

“Thanks to the tireless work of law enforcement, they were stopped before they could bring their murderous plans to fruition,” Donoghue added in the press release.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr.  said “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.”

“Today’s plea is not only a welcome end to this years-long investigation, but a credit to the FBI’s JTTF in New York and our many law enforcement partners who saw this through to the end,” Sweeney stated.

From the DOJ Press Release

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security & Cybercrime Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Craig R. Heeren, Jennifer M. Sasso, Michael T. Keilty, Josh Hafetz and Jonathan E. Algor are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Jennifer Burke of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.