New York City police arrested two women Thursday on charges they were plotting to build a homemade bomb and use it for a Boston Marathon-type terror attack, prosecutors said.
27-year-old Noelle Velentzas and 31-year-old Asia Siddiqui, roommates in Jamaica, Queens — were arrested earlier Thursday in New York, and authorities are convinced ISIS propaganda and their alleged online activities contributed to their ultimate shift toward violence.
In the complaint, the government said the plot advanced to the point that Ms. Siddiqui bought four propane gas tanks and stored them in a stairwell outside her apartment. Earlier, the women had bought potassium gluconate at a Queens pharmacy, bought the fertilizer Miracle-Gro, which can be used as a bomb component, and read about and discussed making bombs.
When discussing making bombs, the women seemed to be careful about their efforts. In August 2014, Ms. Velentzas warned, in a conversation recorded by the undercover officer, that they could be tracked by the government if they watched YouTube videos about how to make explosives, or if they bought too many bottles of Clorox. She bought a prepaid phone thinking it could not be traced back to her, the complaint says.
The complaint said Siddiqui had been in contact with al Qaeda members and Velentzas was Facebook friends with Tairod Pugh, a U.S. Air Force veteran charged with attempting to aid Islamic State, a militant group that holds territory in Iraq and Syria. Pugh, 47, of Neptune, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty last month.
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.
According to the complaint, Valentzas said, “You can fit a lot of things in (the pressure cooker), even if it’s not food,” and then pointed to a thick rope and axe.
Valentzas also allegedly considered attacking the funeral for slain NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, according to the complaint. She allegedly said the funerals would be an “attractive target” for killing officers.