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Philadelphia Woman Held for Supporting IS

  • VOA News

U.S. Justice Department complaint against Keonna Thomas, accused of trying to join Islamic State, April 3, 2015.

U.S. Justice Department complaint against Keonna Thomas, accused of trying to join Islamic State, April 3, 2015.

A Philadelphia woman was charged Friday with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State militant group — the second Syria-linked terrorism case this week involving U.S. women.

The federal criminal complaint says Keonna Thomas, 30, (also known as Fatayat Al Khilafah and YoungLioness) attempted to travel overseas to join and fight with the Islamic State group.

The complaint alleges Thomas tweeted her allegiance, saying, "If we truly knew the realities... we all would be rushing to join our brothers in the front lines."

A Justice Department statement announcing the case said Thomas is alleged to have applied for a U.S. passport, searched indirect travel routes to Turkey online and purchased an electronic visa to Turkey, as well as tickets to fly overseas. She is accused of engaging in electronic communications with an Islamic State fighter in Syria, responding "that would be amazing ... a girl can only wish" when asked if she wanted to be part of a martyrdom operation.

Thomas also reportedly advised an associate that she had deactivated her Twitter account until she was to leave for Syria, saying she did not want to "draw attention" from non-believers.

If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

New York arrests

The Justice Department announcement comes after two New York City women were arrested for allegedly trying to build a homemade bomb to launch a terrorist attack in the United States.

A federal criminal complaint made public Thursday says Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui were arrested on charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

Prosecutors say undercover investigators determined the women were plotting to attack police, government or military targets based on their "violent jihadist beliefs."

Authorities say the public was never in danger.

The complaint alleged that the defendants possessed propane gas tanks and instructions on how to transform them into explosive devices.

Investigators say Velentzas repeatedly expressed interest in terrorist attacks committed in the United States, alleging she praised the 9/11 attacks and said being a martyr through a suicide attack guarantees entrance into heaven.

Prosecutors also say Velentzas had been "obsessed with pressure cookers since the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013" and allegedly made jokes alluding to explosives after receiving one as a gift.

If convicted, both defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.