One of the two women indicted Thursday for allegedly plotting to bomb New York City had ties to the group the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and spoke at the group’s events along with Indiana U.S. Rep. Andre Carson and the controversial imam Siraj Wahhaj.
Noelle Velentzas, 28, and her roommate, 31-year-old Asia Siddiqui, are accused of plotting a terrorist attack on New York City.
An indictment filed by the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Eastern District of New York alleges that Velentzas and Siddiqui, who are both American citizens and lived together in Queens, had obtained materials to make a bomb out of a pressure cooker, similar to the one used in the Boston Marathon bombing.
Siddiqui was in possession of propane tanks as well as instructions on how to convert them into explosives, according to the complaint. Both had been in communication with members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and had watched ISIS beheading videos. Siddiqui was also friends with the former editor of the Al Qaeda magazine, Inspire.
Velentzas allegedly espoused jihadist ideology and told an undercover agent that becoming a martyr guarantees entrance into heaven. The agent also reported that Velentzas showed him her cell phone which contained a picture of Osama bin Laden holding an AK-47. The agent also relayed evidence that both women became increasingly interested in bomb-making and did research on how to make explosives.
The indictment says that Velentzas also expressed outrage at U.S. attacks on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). She also told the agent that she and Siddiqui are “citizens of the Islamic State.”
But before she began conspiring to blow up the Big Apple, Velentzas lived in an ICNA homeless shelter in Jamaica, a neighborhood in Queens. Velentzas was such a success that ICNA used her as a poster-child to help with its fundraising activities.
Velentzas appears to have spoken at an April 27, 2013, ICNA Relief event held in Queens. ICNA, founded in 1968, is considered to be more conservative compared to other national Islamic groups, such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The event was held to raise money to “help benefit Islamic women’s shelters, provide disaster relief shelters, offer foster parenting classes for Muslims, and provide back-to-school supplies for kids.”
The other speaker listed for the event is Siraj Wahhaj, a controversial imam who operates Brooklyn’s Masjid al-Taqwa mosque.
Wahhaj is a prolific speaker and closely aligned with groups like ICNA, ISNA, and CAIR. Though Wahhaj and his mosque are presented as moderates, many of Masjid al-Taqwa’s congregants have been indicted on terrorism-related charges over the years. Wahhaj also testified on behalf of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh. He was the mastermind behind the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Besides their appearance at the same ICNA event, Wahhaj and Velentzas have something else in common.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the 28-year-old man who killed two New York City police officers in December, occasionally attended Wahhaj’s mosque. And according to the indictment against Velentzas, she told the undercover agent that she considered launching an attack at the officers’ funerals. Velentzas discussed targeted both police and military, according to the indictment.
There is no indication that either Wahhaj or Velentzas knew Brinsley. (RELATED: NYC Cop Killer’s Undiscovered Social Media Accounts Reveal An Islamic Side)
The Daily Caller reached out to Masjid al-Taqwa, but a woman who answered the phone declined comment, saying “we don’t really do stuff with reporters.”
ICNA released a statement on Thursday confirming that Velentzas had been affiliated with the group. She was homeless for a period between 2008 and 2009 and stayed at the organization’s 12-bed shelter.
“While she was staying in our shelter, our staff helped her get on her feet,” ICNA said in a statement. “During this time she successfully completed studies to become a Home Health Care Provider after which she became gainfully employed. She left the facility when she married.”
ICNA also said that because Velentzas appeared to have benefited greatly from its programs, “we asked her to speak about the experience of our shelter. She appeared at several fundraisers and was the subject of videos as well.”
One of those other events Velentzas contributed to was the organization’s 2012 annual convention, held in Hartford, Conn. between May 26 and May 28.
That particular conference gained national attention at the time due of one of its other speakers.
Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat and the second-ever Muslim to hold a seat in Congress, made heated comments about the state of the American school system.
“America will never tap into educational innovation and ingenuity without looking at the model that we have in our madrassas, in our schools, where innovation is encouraged, where the foundation is the Quran,” Carson said. “And that model that we are pushing in some of our schools meets the multiple needs of students.”
It is unclear exactly which of the numerous panels Velentzas contributed to. A major focus of that three-day conference was sharia, or Islamic law.
Wahhaj also spoke at that convention.