When Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui were arrested early Thursday morning at their Queens home, officers found pressure cookers, gas tanks, hand-written instructions for bomb making and jihadist pamphlets. According to the AP, Velentzas’ and Siddiqui’s arrest indicates a shift in women’s participation in “militant Islamic jihad.”
Unlike women that have previously sought to join terrorist groups, Velentzas and Siddiqui had no interest in the roles traditionally reserved for women: marrying an ISIS fighter or nursing. Rather, the government alleges that the two women wanted to take active an military role by building a bomb and attacking a domestic target.
While past cases often involved women answering the call by the Islamic State group on social media to join the cause as nurses or wives, “the idea that they want to fight is more a noticeable new trend,” said Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security.
The sometimes boastful and profane language one of the New York women was quoted as using in the criminal complaint — “Why can’t we be some real bad b——-s?” — bolstered the idea that the defendants weren’t candidates for nonmilitary roles in a caliphate.
The Friday arrest of Philadelphia woman Keonna Thomas might also be indicative of the shift. Thomas was arrested after she purchased a plane ticket to Turkey with the intention of travelling to Syria. Her correspondence with a Syria-based ISIS fighter indicated that she was attempting to join a “martyrdom operation.” When asked by the fighter if she would sign-up for a suicide mission, Thomas alleged responded: “That would be amazing...a girl can only wish.”
Some, however, remain skeptical that there is actually any significant change among women’s roles or interests within terrorist groups. “These are wannabe jihads that sort of have this, at least in their head, projection of importance of significance,” University of Massachusetts professor Mia Bloom told the AP. “They want to build a bomb but they don’t know how to do it.”
Image via AP.