Crime & Justice

Pakistan’s ‘Lady al-Qaeda’ back in focus after Texas hostage drama

By Amjad Ali

Islamabad, Jan 19 (EFE).- The weekend hostage drama at a synagogue in the United States has shifted the attention back on Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman serving 86-year imprisonment for trying to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The 44-year-old hostage-taker invoked the woman widely known as “Lady al-Qaeda” and demanded her freedom from the federal prison in Forth Worth, some distance away from the Jewish center in Texas.

Her sister Fowzia Siddiqui said the family condemned the synagogue incident.

“We want no violence in Aafia’s name,” Fowzia told EFE.

Siddiqui, hailed by Islamists as a hero and viewed as an innocent in Pakistan, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a doctorate in neurology from Brandeis University in the US.

According to her profile on Intel Wire, Siddiqui married twice and divorced with three children.

First, she married Mohammad Amjad in 1995. She purportedly married the second time in 2003 to Ammar al Baluchi, who is reportedly the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Siddiqui lived in the US from 1991 to 2002.

After the al-Qaeda attacks in the US on Sep.11, 2001, she became radicalized, and by 2008, she was a wanted terrorist.

In 2008, Afghanistan police arrested Siddiqui on suspicion of trying to attack the governor of the Ghazni province.

Afghan authorities found handwritten notes in her possession that referred to a “mass casualty attack” and listed various locations in the US, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge, an FBI statement said in 2010.

According to the statement, other notes referred to the construction of “dirty bombs,” and discussed various ways to attack “enemies.”

The statement said when a team of US servicemen and others tried to interview Siddiqui after her arrest, she grabbed an officer’s M-4 rifle and fired at troops.

The FBI said she had trained on handling and shooting firearms as a student in Boston.

Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 by a New York federal court.

She is at a US prison in Fort Worth, about 38 km southwest of Congregation Beth Israel, where the standoff ended Saturday with hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram dead on Saturday.

“Siddiqui is not well known in the US, but in Pakistan, she is a big name. Many view her as an innocent victim. Also, at one point, ISIS had demanded that she be released in exchange for ISIS captives,” Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia program at Wilson Center, wrote on Twitter.

Amir Rana, Director Pak Institute for Peace Studies, says Islamists see her as a role model who sacrificed her life for Islam.

“The jihadists see her as a courageous woman and believe she is a hero,” Amir told EFE.

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