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Pakistani woman arrested for attempted murder of US soldiers

By Dharam Shourie in New York
August 05, 2008 10:38 IST
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A Pakistani woman, who mysteriously disappeared from Karachi five years back, having alleged links with the Al Qaeda, has been arrested on charges of attempted murder and assault of US soldiers and FBI agents working in Afghanistan.

Thirty-six year old Aafia Saddiqui, a neuroscientist trained in US, who was arrested in New York after being brought from Afghanistan on Monday evening, will be produced before a court on Wednesday, South District of New York Attorney Michael J Garcia said.

If convicted, she could get prison sentence of 20 years on each of the two charges.

Saddiqui, who studied at the Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had disappeared from her house while visiting her parents in Karachi along with her three children, evoking allegations from her family members and human rights groups that she was being illegally detained.

American officials, on the other hand alleged that the woman aroused suspicion while she was loitering outside the Ghazni governor's compound in Afghanistan on July 17 this year.

The police found descriptions of various landmarks in the United States, including New York, documents describing making of explosives and excerpts from the Anarchist's Arsenal on searching her, they said.

On July 18, a party of American personnel, including two FBI agents and a US Army warrant officer, arrived at the Afghan facility where Siddiqui was being held.

Shortly after the meeting began, the woman picked up the warrant officer's rifle and pointed it directly at the captain, the complaint said, adding, she fired at least two shots but no one was hit. The warrant officer returned fire hitting her at least once.

The complaint also said that American officials had no knowledge of Siddiqui's whereabouts for the past five years until she appeared outside governor's compound on July 17, arousing suspicion of the local police.

However, the FBI was looking for her for the last four years.

Human rights groups and a lawyer for Siddiqui, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, were quoted in media reports as saying they believed that Siddiqui has been secretly detained since 2003, much of the time at Bagram base in Afghanistan.

"We believe Aafia has been in custody ever since she disappeared and we're not willing to believe that the discovery of Aafia in Afghanistan is coincidence," Sharp told the New York Times.

But American military and intelligence officials said Siddiqui was in Pakistan for most of the past five years until she was detained by Afghan authorities.

"She was not in US custody," a senior American intelligence official told the Times.

US intelligence agencies said Siddiqui had links to at least two of the 14 men suspected of being high-level members of Al Qaeda who were moved to Guantanamo in September 2006.

The Times quoted a government statement as saying that Siddiqui helped one Majid Khan get documents to re-enter the United States. Khan was directed by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief organiser of the September 11 attacks, to conduct research on poisoning reservoirs and blowing up gas stations in the United States.

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Dharam Shourie in New York
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