Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani prisoner in the United States whose release this weekend was demanded by a Texas hostage taker, is serving an 86-year sentence for the attempted murder of American soldiers.
Four people were released unharmed on Sunday after a more than 10-hour standoff at a state synagogue. Their suspected kidnapper was killed.
Media, citing a US official who was briefed on the case, reported that the man called for the release of 49-year-old Siddiqui.
Her attorney said in a statement to DailyExpertNews that she had “absolutely no involvement” in the hostage situation and condemned the man’s actions.
She is a US-trained Pakistani scientist and was jailed in 2010 for attacking US soldiers in Afghanistan.
She was the first woman suspected by the US of having links with al-Qaeda, but was never convicted.
At age 18, Siddiqui traveled to the US, where her brother lived, to study at the prestigious MIT in Boston and later to earn a PhD in neuroscience from Brandeis University.
But after the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001, she came on the FBI’s radar for donations to Islamist organizations and was linked to purchasing $10,000 worth of night vision goggles and books on warfare.
The US suspected that she joined al-Qaeda from America and returned to Pakistan, where she married into the family of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – an architect of the 9/11 attacks.
She disappeared in Karachi around 2003, along with her three children.
Five years later, she turned up in war-torn neighboring Afghanistan, where she was arrested by local forces in the troubled southeastern province of Ghazni.
‘Death to America’
During her interrogation by US troops, she grabbed a rifle and opened fire, yelling “Death to America” and “I want to kill Americans.”
The soldiers escaped unharmed, but she was wounded.
Her imprisonment sparked outrage in her home country and her supporters claim she was the victim of a secret plot between Pakistan and the US.
After she was convicted, the then number two of Al-Qaeda called on Muslims to “avenge” the decision.
Her release has been at the center of militants’ demands before, including during two hostages in Pakistan and the arrest of James Foley, an American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State in 2014.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asian analyst, tweeted: “Siddiqui isn’t well known in the US, but she’s a big name in Pakistan — many consider her an innocent victim.”
In an earlier article, he described her as a celebrity among terrorists and said she was seen as a “powerful symbol of how badly Americans are treating innocent Muslims in the global campaign against terror.”
The issue has remained a matter of longstanding tension between Pakistan and the US.
During his election campaign, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, an open critic of US action in the war on terror, vowed to release her. He offered to release Shakeel Afridi, who is languishing in Pakistani prison for his role in helping Americans track down Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)