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US: Pakistan-born scientist indicted for murder
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September 03, 2008 16:59 IST

A Pakistan-born United States scientist Aafia Siddiqui, with suspected links to Al Qaeda [Images], has been indicted on federal charges that she tried to kill the American interrogators after her arrest in Afghanistan.

The 36-year-old neuro-scientist was arrested in Ghazni province of Afghanistan in July this year while loitering around the Governor's compound.

Siddiqui was held for questioning by army officers and FBI agents, but she allegedly snatched an Army officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at other members of the US interview team. She repeatedly stated her intent and desire to kill Americans, according to the indictment filed on Tuesday.

If convicted, Siddiqui could spend her life in prison. She was indicted and scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.

However, none of the officers were injured in the scuffle that followed.

The indictment further said that a number of items were in Siddiqui's possession when she was detained, including handwritten notes that referred to a 'mass casualty attack'.

US officials, who privately described her as a 'treasure trove' of information on the Al Qaeda terror network, alleged that she was carrying a list of some of the city's prime locations like Plum Island, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, among others.

Siddiqui, who had been missing for five years and reappeared in Ghazni under suspicious circumstances, was arrested by the Afghan police on July 17 and brought to the US the next day on the pretext that she had been planning a suicide attack.

The US educated scientist faces one count of attempting to kill US nationals abroad; one count of attempting to kill US officers and employees; one count of armed assault of US officers and employees; one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and three counts of assault of US officers and employees.

A FBI statement said that if convicted, Siddiqui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the attempted murder and armed assault charges; life in prison on the firearm charge; and eight years in prison on each of the remaining assault charges.

The indictment charges that Siddiqui not only had documents listing the landmarks but also various ways to attack 'enemies, including by destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs, and using gliders'.

A computer flash drive found from the scientist at a time of her arrest also referred to 'specific cells and attacks by certain cells' the charges read.

However, Siddiqui's lawyers claimed that the Pakistan-born scientist had been detained secretly since 2003 after she left her parents' home in Karachi for Islamabad [Images].

Siddiqui is married to a nephew of Khalid Shekh Mohammed who, the US says, is among the people who helped plan the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York.

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