NYC women plead guilty to planning bomb attack on US military personnel and law enforcement

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In this courtroom sketch, defendants Noelle Velentzas, center left and Asia Siddiqui, center right, appear in federal court with their attorneys, Thursday, April 2, 2015, in New York. (Associated Press/Jane Rosenberg)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two women inspired by radical Islam pleaded guilty in New York City on Friday to teaching and distributing information about the manufacture and use of an explosive, destructive device and weapon of mass destruction, federal prosecutors said.


Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas, both U.S. citizens in their 30s from the borough of Queens, face up to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced.

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement the defendants studied some of the most deadly attacks in U.S. history as a blueprint for their plans to kill American law enforcement and military personnel.

Prosecutors said Velentzas and Siddiqui taught each other chemistry and electrical skills, conducted research on how to make plastic explosives and a car bomb, and bought materials to be used in an explosive device.

Siddiqui wrote a poem for a radical jihadist magazine edited by Samir Khan, a now-deceased prominent member of the militant group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. court in the Eastern District of New York.

Velentzas also espoused violent rhetoric, praising the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, and stating that being a martyr through a suicide attack guaranteed entrance into heaven, according to the criminal complaint.

Law enforcement officers seized propane gas tanks, soldering tools, car bomb instructions, jihadist literature, machetes and several knives from the residences of the defendants when they were arrested, prosecutors said.

Attorneys for Siddiqui and Velentzas did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

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KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

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