By Ellen Wulfhorst and Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two New York City women have been arrested and accused of planning to wage a "terrorist attack" in the United States, according to a federal criminal complaint made public on Thursday.
Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, plotted to hit police, government or military targets based on their "violent jihadist beliefs," according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
The complaint said Velentzas and Siddiqui were conspiring "to prepare an explosive device to be detonated in a terrorist attack in the United States."
It said Velentzas had praised al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and said she and Siddiqui were "citizens of the Islamic State."
The women, who were roommates in the city borough of Queens, had researched how to build an explosive device and that they had read textbooks on electricity and watched online videos about soldering, it said.
They also voiced support for beheadings of Western journalists and others by militants in control of territory in Syria and Iraq, the complaint said.
Accused of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against persons or property in the United States, the pair appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge Viktor Pohorelsky in Brooklyn federal court.
Neither Velentzas, who wore a black dress and hijab, nor Siddiqui, in a green t-shirt over black clothing, entered a plea. Both will be detained.
Thomas Dunn, a court-appointed lawyer for Siddiqui, said she would plead not guilty if indicted. "I know it is a serious case, but we're going to fight it out in court," he said.
Velentzas's lawyer Sean Maher declined comment.
The women face the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
"We are committed to doing everything in our ability to detect, disrupt and deter attacks by homegrown violent extremists," Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. Lynch is President Barack Obama's nominee for U.S. attorney general.
RASH OF CASES
Separately on Thursday, Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, a U.S. citizen who trained with al Qaeda in Pakistan, appeared in Brooklyn federal court on charges that he had conspired to provide personnel to be used by Islamist militants in support of efforts to kill U.S. citizens and members of the U.S. military abroad.
In March, the U.S. Justice Department said a U.S. Army National Guard soldier and his cousin had been arrested on charges of conspiring to support the Islamic State militant group in a plot that included an attack on a military installation in Illinois.
Also last month, U.S. Air Force veteran Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, 47, of Neptune, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to trying to provide support for the Islamic State.
In another case, a Somali-American teenager who was stopped at a Minnesota airport as he sought to fly to Turkey last year pleaded guilty in federal court in February to conspiring to support Islamic State.
In February, three men who were living in Brooklyn were charged with conspiring to support Islamic State, and two of them had planned to go to Syria to fight on behalf of the group, U.S. authorities said.
(Editing by Toni Reinhold)
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