Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist serving more than an 80-year sentence in the US, has once again come into the limelight after her release was sought by the British hostage-taker at a Texas synagogue last week.
Aafia Siddiqui, also known as ‘Lady Al Qaeda’, is a Pakistani national who was convicted in 2010 by a New York City federal court of attempting to kill US military personnel. She is currently serving an 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Siddiqui tried to kill US agents and military officers in Afghanistan.
Siddiqui was in the news in 2018 when there were reports about a "deal" between Islamabad and Washington, DC, to swap physician Dr Shakeel Afridi, who aided the US to track down former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, with Aafia Siddiqui.
At 18, Aafia Siddiqui went to the US to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston. She then earned a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University near Boston. However, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, she was spotted by the US authorities for her donations to Islamic organisations.
The United States suspects that she joined the Al Qaeda from America, then returned to Pakistan where she married a family member of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks. Media reports say she mysteriously disappeared around 2003, in the city of Karachi. Five years later, she was found in Afghanistan, where she was arrested by local forces in Ghazni province.
Interestingly, Siddiqui's case continues to draw attention ever since she was arrested in the eastern Afghan province in 2008 with plans to attack US cities.
Most Americans are unaware of Siddiqui's case, but terror groups have been seeking her release and using the case to gain more recruits, Voice of America reported.
Siddiqui’s conviction in 2010 had sparked outrage in Pakistan. Later, the Pakistani senate passed a resolution in 2018, calling her a "daughter of the nation" and urged the government to take "concrete steps" for her repatriation.
The demand was also part of Imran Khan's Election Manifesto, according to Al Jazeera. After assuming office, Khan went on to mention Siddiqui on several occasions, calling for her release.