2 women charged in NYC bomb plotting case plead not guilty
NEW YORK (AP) — Two women arrested last month for plotting to build a homemade bomb and wage jihad in New York City pleaded not guilty Thursday during a brief court appearance in a Brooklyn federal courthouse.
Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, both wore blue prison garb as their attorneys entered the pleas on their behalf to an indictment charging them each with a count of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and teaching how to make such a devise. Siddiqui was also charged with lying to FBI agents.
An attorney for Siddiqui said he plans on fighting the charges. Velentzas, donning a hijab, smiled at supporters in the gallery as she was brought into the court. Those supporters declined to speak to reporters.
The women were arrested by FBI agents and New York Police Department officers last month after a sting operation involving a wired female undercover officer. A search of their homes yielded three gas tanks, a pressure cooker, fertilizer, handwritten notes on the recipes for bomb making and jihadist literature, according to court papers.
Velentzas in particular had been “obsessed” with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and even joked about the explosives, according to recorded conversations detailed in a complaint against the women.
Siddiqui had written jihadist poetry later published in a magazine called “Jihad Recollections” and had been in contact with the editor of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s “Inspire” magazine but lied to FBI agents about those connections, court documents show.
The women researched and started to assemble parts to make homemade bombs — including the kinds used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City and the one used in the 2013 Boston Marathon attack, according to court documents.
They were arrested after Siddiqui acquired propane tanks and instructions on how to turn them into bombs, a criminal complaint suggests.
Authorities said Velentzas, 27, was believed to have been born in Florida of Greek ethnicity. Siddiqui, 31, was born in Saudi Arabia. Both women are U.S. citizens.
Prosecutors asked for two more weeks before the women’s next court appearance, telling a magistrate judge that the case was complex and involved a vast amount of evidence, including recordings. They’re scheduled to next appear before a judge on May 20.