Two New York City females were arrested Thursday, April 2 on charges of plotting to build homemade bombs, according to several press outlets.
The affidavit, obtained by CBS News, details interactions and conversations an undercover FBI Agent had with suspects Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui from 2013 until March 2015. Both suspects are United States citizens who had been living in Queens until their arrest.
Velentzas, according to the document, had a photo of Osama bin Laden as the background on her phone and said she viewed bin Laden and his mentor, Abdullah Azzam, as her heroes.
The complaint describes, in detail, many conversations between the agent and the two suspects about how to make homemade bombs from various chemicals, where to buy certain materials, and how to successfully conceal such activity from both neighbors and law enforcement. The affidavit includes a record of several conversations where Siddiqui and Velentzas discuss conducting terror attacks on U.S. soil.
According to the document, in 2006, Siddiqui developed close ties to Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American who joined Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and founded its English-language magazine Inspire. Khan, who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike in Yemen, also founded the magazine Jihad Recollections, a precursor to Inspire. [See LWJ report, AQAP publishes biography of American jihadist Samir Khan.] Khan himself wrote an article for Inspire titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”
In 2009, Siddiqui wrote a poem published in Jihad Recollections titled “Take Me to the Lands Where the Eyes are Cooled,” which advocates for jihad and makes a specific reference to dropping bombs. The court document also states that in 2011 Siddiqui sent a letter to Mohammad Mohamud declaring her support for the man, who was arrested in 2010 for attempting to blow up a Christmas tree lighting in Portland, Oregon.
The affidavit suggests that the suspects preferred military targets by detailing a reference Velentzas made to Mohammad Shnewer, the jihadist sentenced to life in prison for trying to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey. Velentzas says Shnewer “was ‘charged with quite an admirable thing,’” according to the affidavit.
Throughout the document, various conversations reference previous bomb plots in America, including the Oklahoma City bombing, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the failed 2009 plot to blow up the New York City subway. In an August 2014 conversation, Velentzas showed the agent and Siddiqui images of Adis Medunjanin and Ramzi Yousef. Medunjanin was convicted of the New York City subway plot, while Yousef was convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Velentzas told the agent and Siddiqui that the two men were unsuccessful “partly because they unknowingly provided information to government informants.”
Another conversation described in the document references Faisal Shahzad, the man who unsuccessfully tried to detonate car bombs in Times Square in 2010. Velentzas told the agent and Siddiqui that to prevent such a failure, they needed to understand the science of such bombs.
In a conversation between the agent and Velentzas following President Obama’s September speech about bombing Islamic State targets, “Velentzas stated that attacks on ISIS were tantamount to attacks on her own state.” In one meeting portrayed in the document, Velentzas tells the FBI agent and Siddiqui “that people needed to refer to them as ‘citizens of the Islamic State.’”
Various interactions described shed light on how the suspects learned to create explosives, including YouTube videos on soldering and a book titled “The Anarchist Cookbook,” which details how to make bombs.
Velentzas also mentioned Yahya Ayyash, a bomb maker for Hamas who was killed in 1996, on more than one occasion and showed a picture of him as the background on her cell phone.
In one November conversation, according to the affidavit, “Velentzas stated that all Muslims, especially those who believed in an Islamic caliphate, should have knowledge about weapons.”
In another November conversation, the agent and Velentzas watched various ISIS videos, including one in which fighters are shown beheading Syrian soldiers, and featuring “pro-ISIS French foreign fighters [that] urged others to leave their countries to fight with ISIS.” Velentzas also showed the agent an image she claimed to be of “ISIS blowing up a gas pipe between Egypt and Israel.” Velentzas then told the agent to download AQAP’s Inspire on the pre-paid cell phone. On a separate occasion, Velentzas told the agent that Inspire contained instructions for making bombs.
The details within the court document include one discussion between the agent and Velentzas about the killing of two New York City police officers in December, another about an article from Inspire called “Car Bombs Inside America” that the agent and Velentzas studied, and the Boston Marathon bombing. The suspects studied Inspire with the agent on more than one occasion. When the FBI agent told the suspects how many people attended slain police officer Rafael Ramos’ funeral, Velentzas “complimented the UC on coming up with an attractive potential target,” and asked whether or not “’regular people’” were in attendance.
In January, Velentzas described a video of a suicide truck bombing in Syria or Iraq to the agent. The next month, Velentzas said, “’we are living Al-Malahama, that’s the last war, the big war before the end of day starts, in English they call it Armageddon, we are actually living in that time, it’s not a joke, it starts in Syria,’” according to the document.
After February reports surfaced about the three British schoolgirls believed to have migrated to Syria to live under the caliphate, the agent mentioned this to Velentzas saying that they could do the same if they weren’t old and if Velentzas were not married. Velentzas responded, “’You never know, there is [sic] other ways…There’s other ways to do that.’” According to the document, “Velentzas wanted the freedom to love the Islamic State.”
The affidavit states that Velentzas became Facebook friends with Tairod Pugh in August 2014. Pugh is the one-time U.S. airman indicted last month on charges for trying to join the Islamic State. Velentzas said she could not fathom why people would travel to Syria when “there were more opportunities of ‘pleasing Allah’ here in the United States.”
While the complaint largely suggests that the two female suspects were focused on attacks at home, other females have been influenced by the Islamic State’s propaganda to migrate to the caliphate, including the three British girls mentioned in the document. In October, three American girls from Colorado tried to travel to Syria, but were stopped in Frankfurt, Germany and sent back home.
Velentzas and Siddiqi drew inspiration from both AQAP and Islamic State propaganda. Similarly, Ahmed Coulibaly, one of the gunmen from the Paris attacks in January, had been in contact with an al Qaeda recruiter, but eventually pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. His wife is reportedly now living under the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate.’ [See LWJ report, New issue of ‘Dabiq’ features interview with widow of Paris gunmen.]
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