Two New York Women Were Just Caught Trying to Join the Islamic State Group

AP

Federal authorities arrested two women in New York Thursday on charges of planning to detonate a bomb in the city. Federal authorities say the women, 27-year-old Noelle Velentzas and 31-year-old Asia Siddiqui, had been radicalized by the Islamic State group.

ABC News reported that the public was never in danger and that the FBI busted the plot to build an improvised explosive device after a lengthy undercover investigation. According to the New York Post, the women might have been planning to bomb a police funeral.

The women, both from Jamaica, Queens, are expected to appear in court in Brooklyn Thursday afternoon. Sources told New York City's WABC that Siddiqui had been "in possession of multiple propane gas tanks, as well as instructions for how to transform propane tanks into explosive devices."

An FBI press release from the Eastern District of New York read in part, "the defendants have repeatedly expressed their support for violent jihad." Loretta E. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District said in the release, "We are committed to doing everything in our ability to detect, disrupt and deter attacks by homegrown violent extremists."

Loretta E. LynchSource: The Washington Post/Getty Images
Loretta E. Lynch  The Washington Post/Getty Images

Islamic State goes global. While a terrorist plot incubating in New York may be unexpected, the infiltration of Islamic State cells far outside their areas of control has become an almost regular occurrence. 

In Chicago, Mediha Medy Salkicevic and Jasminka Ramic were arrested in February on charges of funneling money to terrorists in Iraq and Syria. More troubling still was the case of Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, a former airplane mechanic  who was charged with supporting the Islamic State after trying to join the group. 

The latest arrests are not even the first time New Yorkers have confronted the Islamic State group in their city. In February, three men were arrested in Brooklyn on similar charges. 

Recruiting women: But the arrests of Salkicevic and Ramic are especially noteworthy as the latest example of the Islamic State's vigorous attempts to reach out to women. According to a report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 550 of the group's estimated 3,000 Western recruits are women. 

Recently, the group also launched the Zora Foundation to highlight its softer side. According to a Guardian report, the website comes with domestic advice like "clip-art-style animation of sewing machines and cooking hobs," as well as health advice like a reminder that when jogging, "keep adding distance every day in order not to be a burden on your jihadi brothers." 

Even if you can't read Arabic, you get the gist.

Essential information from the Zora FoundationSource: Guardian/Zora Foundation
Essential information from the Zora Foundation  Guardian/Zora Foundation

Female outreach is part of a wider effort to help produce the next generation of Islamic State "citizens." 

"The women are often recruited to marry jihadists: 'You can participate in the jihad by marrying. You can be the mother of the next generation.' It is a fairly traditional female role," Jessica Stern, co-author of ISIS: State of Terror, told the Harvard Gazette

The group is famously active on social media outlets such as Twitter, where supporters operate at least 46,000 Twitter accounts. In many cases, according to Stern, female recruiters that understand women's issues are used to sell the group to Western audiences. Twitter's admirable attempts to shut them down have only produced an online game of whack-a-mole and death threats against its executives.

Source: Vocativ/Twitter
Source: Vocativ/Twitter

When women do arrive in Islamic State-controlled territory, what they find is typically grim. Once inside, they are essentially prisoners. Two Austrian girls who famously expressed a desire to return to Vienna were forced to retract that desire at gunpoint.

What to do. The biggest misconception we can have about the Islamic State group is that they can be defeated by guns and bombs. As Mic has previously written, the Islamic State is not a country so much as it is a collection of bad ideas, and bad ideas can only be defeated by better ones. 

Islamic State is not exactly the Garden of Eden, but if living with them is more appealing to anybody than living in New York City, America and the West have a serious problem. If we're ever going to fight the Islamic State effectively, it's one we need to solve.

h/t ABC News