MIT trained scientist Aafia Siddiqui Arrested for Attempting to Kill United States Officers in Afghanistan
August 5, 2008
Aafia Siddiqui Arrested for Attempting to Kill United States Officers in AfghanistanFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 4, 2008
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NEW YORK- Michael J. Garcia, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mark J. Mershon, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), and Raymond W. Kelly, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York, announced today the arrest of Aafia Siddiqui on charges related to her attempted murder and assault of United States officers and employees in Afghanistan. Siddiqui arrived in New York this evening and will be presented tomorrow before a United States Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. According to the Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court:
On July 17, 2008, officers of the Ghazni Province Afghanistan National Police ("ANP") observed Siddiqui outside the Ghazni governor's compound. ANP officers questioned Siddiqui, regarded her as suspicious, and searched her handbag. In it, they found numerous documents describing the creation of explosives, as well as excerpts from the Anarchist's Arsenal. Siddiqui's papers included descriptions of various landmarks in the United States, including in New York City. Siddiqui was also in possession of substances that were sealed in bottles and glass jars.
On July 18, 2008, a party of United States personnel, including two FBI special agents, a United States Army Warrant Officer, a United States Army Captain, and United States military interpreters, arrived at the Afghan facility where Siddiqui was being held. The personnel entered a second floor meeting room -- unaware that Siddiqui was being held there, unsecured, behind a curtain.
The Warrant Officer took a seat and placed his United States Army M-4 rifle on the floor next to the curtain. Shortly after the meeting began, the Captain heard a woman yell from the curtain and, when he turned, saw Siddiqui holding the Warrant Officer's rifle and pointing it directly at the Captain. Siddiqui said, "May the blood of [unintelligible] be directly on your [unintelligible, possibly head or hands]." The interpreter seated closest to Siddiqui lunged at her and pushed the rifle away as Siddiqui pulled the trigger. Siddiqui fired at least two shots but no one was hit. The Warrant Officer returned fire with a 9 mm service pistol and fired approximately two rounds at Siddiqui's torso, hitting her at least once.
Despite being shot, Siddiqui struggled with the officers when they tried to subdue her; she struck and kicked them while shouting in English that she wanted to kill Americans. After being subdued, Siddiqui temporarily lost consciousness. The agents and officers then rendered medical aid to Siddiqui.
Siddiqui, a 36-year-old Pakistani woman who previously resided in the United States, is charged in a criminal Complaint filed in the Southern District of New York with one count of attempting to kill United States officers and employees and one count of assaulting United States officers and employees. If convicted, Siddiqui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each charge.
Mr. Garcia praised the investigative work of the Joint Terrorism Task Force ("JTTF"), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York City Police Department. He also expressed his gratitude to the Office of International Affairs of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of State for their assistance in the case. Mr. Garcia also thanked the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts for their assistance.
Mr. Garcia said that the investigation is continuing.
Assistant United States Attorney Christopher L. Lavigne is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges and allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Although the FBI has no information indicating this individual is connected to specific terrorist activities, the FBI would like to locate and question this individual.
------------------------------------From the Los Angeles Times
Accused Al Qaeda sleeper agent in custodyAafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani mother of three who studied at MIT, is said to have moved in the terrorist group's inner circles. She faces charges of firing at U.S. personnel in Afghanistan.
By Josh Meyer
August 5, 2008
WASHINGTON — One of the more elusive and mysterious figures linked to Al Qaeda -- a Pakistani mother of three who studied biology at MIT and who authorities say spent years in the United States as a sleeper agent -- was flown to New York on Monday night to face charges of attempting to kill U.S. military and FBI personnel in Afghanistan.
The Justice Department, FBI and U.S. military in Afghanistan said that Aafia Siddiqui, 36, was arrested in Ghazni province three weeks ago. She is accused of firing an automatic rifle at FBI agents and soldiers and is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Manhattan today.
Authorities believe Siddiqui used the technical skills she acquired at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do what virtually no other woman has accomplished -- work her way into the clubby inner circles of Al Qaeda's command and control operation, including its chemical and biological weapons program.
But questions swirled around her Monday evening, including whether she has been in Pakistani custody for at least part of the last five years and whether there is hard evidence that she was a trained, committed and hardened Al Qaeda operative, as former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft and other U.S. officials have contended.
"This doesn't pass the sniff test," Elaine W. Sharp, a Massachusetts defense lawyer representing Siddiqui, said of the circumstances surrounding her client's arrest. She said her client was not an Al Qaeda terrorist, but an innocent woman who had been held at Bagram air base in Afghanistan or elsewhere for the last several years and tortured by some combination of U.S., Pakistani and Afghan officials.
Sharp said that Siddiqui had obtained an undergraduate biology degree from MIT and a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience from Brandeis University, both near Boston, and that she had lived a quiet life in the Boston area, and in Houston before that, before returning to her native Pakistan in late 2002.
One senior U.S. federal law enforcement official refused to comment on the case, except to say that Siddiqui was an extremely significant catch and that authorities had pledged not to discuss any details of the operation because of its sensitivity and relationship to ongoing counter-terrorism operations.
"We can't say anything about this one," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He confirmed that the woman in custody was the one near the top of the FBI's Most Wanted List of fugitive terrorism suspects wanted for questioning.
For years, the FBI and the CIA have been desperately trying to find Siddiqui, who they say spent several years in Boston as a "fixer" for admitted Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, providing haven and logistical support for terrorist operatives that he sent to the United States to launch attacks.
Siddiqui also bought diamonds in Liberia as part of Al Qaeda financing efforts and married Mohammed's nephew, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, according to several U.S. counter-terrorism officials and government documents.
One former CIA weapons of mass destruction analyst who tracked Siddiqui said that she became extremely frustrated years ago, however, when she was told by senior Al Qaeda leaders to help their cause by getting pregnant.
"They told her that the best thing she could do for Al Qaeda was to start popping out little jihadists," said the former CIA officer, who left the agency in 2006. "She was furious; she knows more about this stuff than pretty much anyone in the organization."
Siddiqui never gave up her desire to launch attacks against the United States and its allies, according to FBI and Justice Department records made public Monday night.
According to court papers, Afghan national police officers in Ghazni province, south of Kabul, the capital, observed Siddiqui acting suspiciously near the provincial governor's compound July 17.
When they searched her handbag, they found documents relating to explosives, chemical weapons and weapons involving biological materials and radiological agents, along with descriptions of landmarks in New York City and elsewhere in the United States, and liquid and gel substances sealed in bottles and jars.
The next day, according to the court papers, she was being questioned by two FBI agents, an Army captain and an Army warrant officer, along with their interpreters.
A spokeswoman for U.S. forces at Bagram air base, Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, said Siddiqui, who was being interrogated at an Afghan police station, grabbed a gun that a U.S. military officer had laid down while speaking to Afghan police. He did not realize Siddiqui was in the room at the time, unsecured, because she was hidden behind a curtain.
"She seized a weapon and began to shoot," Nielson-Green said. "Our officer returned fire. She was shot in the stomach, but continued to struggle."
She was subsequently hospitalized at Bagram and "was not in the detention facility at any time," Nielson-Green said. Siddiqui was flown to the United States after being found well enough to travel, the spokeswoman said.
Siddiqui is charged in a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York with one count of attempting to kill United States officers and employees and one count of assaulting U.S. officers and employees. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each charge.
Michael J. Garcia, the U.S. attorney in New York, praised the investigative work and said the investigation was continuing.
In the past Siddiqui's lawyer, some human rights advocates and Siddiqui's family members have said she disappeared with her three children in March 2003 while visiting her parents' home in Karachi -- around the same time the FBI said it wanted to question her. Mohammed was arrested just before that in Pakistan.
In 2006, Amnesty International listed Siddiqui as one of many "disappeared" suspects in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Of allegations that Siddiqui had been detained at Bagram after her disappearance in Pakistan, Nielson-Green said: "That's absolute nonsense."
Pakistani government spokesmen declined to comment on the case early today.
Sharp said that the U.S. government's accusations were untrue, that Siddiqui's three children have never surfaced and that her family believes that public pressure from Amnesty and other organizations prompted authorities to concoct her suspicious behavior and arrest so they could hide the fact that she has been in custody all this time.
"We thought she was dead until her brother in Houston got a visit from the FBI the other day and said she is alive," Sharp said.