Two women accused of terrorism plead not guilty

By Sadef Ali Kully

Two women from Jamaica who were accused of plotting a terror attack in the United States pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and additonal counts related to their alleged terror plot after a grand jury indictment May 8 in Brooklyn federal court.

After evidence was presented to a grand jury, Asia Siddiqui, 31, and Noelle Velentzas, 28, were also charged with teaching and distributing information pertaining to the making and use of an explosive, destructive device and weapon of mass destruction. Siddiqui was also charged with making material false statements in a federal grand jury indictment, according to the federal indictment.

Siddiqui who lived with Velentzas, Velentzas husband, Abu Bakr and their two daughters, on 104th Road in Jamaica were arrested and charged in April with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons or property in the United States after a federal undercover investigation revealed the suspected plot.

Velentzas’s husband, Abu Bakr, and Imam Charles Bilal from the Alhamdulillah mosque in Jamaica attended the hearing, but neither one spoke to the media after the courtroom proceedings ended. Siddiqui entered the court expressionless, but Velentzas smiled and her eyes lit up as soon as she saw her husband among the reporters in the gallery of the courtroom.

According to federal prosecutors, Siddiqui and Velentzas, who has two daughters, were allegedly involved in gathering materials to create a weapon of mass destruction, expressing violent jihadi beliefs, having ties to terrorist networks and targeting persons or property in the United States for the planning purposes of their terrorist attack, according to federal criminal complaint.

Bilal, whose mosque Siddiqui and Velentzas had attended for the last five years, said in a past interview with Timesledger that he and Bakr both believe the two women were “set up” by the federal undercover agent.

According to the criminal complaint, since 2014 Siddiqui and Velentzas had allegedly been researching numerous works dealing with explosives, such as “The Anarchist Cookbook.” They were also inspired by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and “obsessed” with the use of pressure cookers in the attack by two terrorist brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamarlan Tsarnaev , said the criminal complaint.

Siddiqui faces an additional count of making material false statements about her ties to the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, according to the grand jury indictment. In July 2014, FBI agents stopped Siddiqui at LaGuardia Airport to question her about her relationship with Samir Khan, the editor and publisher of “Inspire,” a terrorist propaganda magazine launched by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Khan was killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. According to the criminal complaint, Siddiqui allegedly wrote poems that expressed violent jihadi beliefs for the magazine and its blog. Siddiqui is alleged to have lied during that questioning, according to the indictment.

Siddiqui was also allegedly communicating with Khan while she attended York College in Jamaica sporadically between 2006 and 2011. Though she did not graduate, she had completed 125 credits and held a grade point average of 2.175, Timesledger found.

Both Siddiqui and Velentzas were expected to be back in Brooklyn federal court on May 20.

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