FBI concedes Aafia Siddiqui in US custody: lawyer
By Anwar Iqbal
August 4, 2008
WASHINGTON, Aug 3: Five years after her mysterious disappearance in
Karachi, the FBI has finally conceded that an MIT-trained
Pakistani neuroscientist is alive and is in US custody in
Aafia Siddiqui, 36, disappeared with her three children while
visiting her parents' home in Karachi in March 2003, around the same
time the FBI announced that it wanted to question her over her
alleged links to Al Qaeda.
Her family's lawyer Elaine Whitfield Sharp said she believed recent
media reports about Mrs Siddiqui's incarceration increased
pressure on the US and Pakistani authorities to divulge more
"I don't believe that they just found Aafia," she said. "I believe
that she was there all along."
The fate of her three young, American-born children is still unknown.
Before her disappearance, Mrs Siddiqui lived in a Boston suburb of
Roxbury and studied at Brandeis University as well as the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In a 2006 report, Amnesty International listed Mrs Siddiqui as among
a number of "disappeared" suspects in the war on terrorism. On
July 6, 2007, AI listed Mrs Siddiqui as a possible CIA "secret
detainee", although she was still on the FBI's Seeking Information -
Terrorism list. Late last week, Mrs Siddiqui's photo still appeared
on the FBI's list of people wanted for questioning.
Since no charges were ever filed against her, human rights groups
treated her case as that of "extrajudicial detention", although no
government ever claimed detaining her.
Even the FBI does not mention any charges in the notice seeking
information about her. "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," says the notice.
The "gray lady of Bagram": On July 7, a British journalist Yvonne
Ridley told a news conference in Islamabad that a Pakistani woman
had been held in solitary confinement for years at the Bagram US
base near Kabul. The identity of this prisoner remains unconfirmed.
She has been nicknamed the "gray lady of Bagram". Ms Ridley,
however, speculated that she was Aafia Siddiqui.
Moazzam Begg and several other former captives also have reported
that a female prisoner, prisoner 650, was held in Bagram. The
former captives claim that she has lost her sanity and cries all the
Although it is still not clear if the "gray lady of Bagram" is Aafia
Siddiqui, her family's attorney told reporters on Friday that
the FBI had finally conceded that Mrs Siddiqui is in US custody.
"It has been confirmed by the FBI that Aafia Siddiqui is alive,"
said Ms Sharp, who said she spoke to an FBI official on Thursday.
"She is injured but alive, and she is in Afghanistan."
For five years, US and Pakistani authorities denied knowing her
whereabouts. But human rights groups and Mrs Siddiqui's relatives
had long suspected that she had been captured in Karachi and
secretly taken into custody.
On Thursday, an FBI official visited Mrs Siddiqui's brother in
Houston to deliver the news that she was alive and in custody, Ms
FBI officials, however, would not say who was holding her or reveal
the fate of her children.
"If she's in US custody, they want to know where she is," Ms Sharp
said. "Who has got her? And does she need medical care?"
The FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment.
US military documents declassified in recent years suggest that Mrs
Siddiqui is suspected of having ties to several key terrorism
suspects being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.
She is believed to have links to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged
mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and allegedly
arranged travel documents for another suspected terrorist.
Papers in Guantanamo Bay also indicate that she married Ali Abd Al
Aziz Ali, an alleged Al Qaeda facilitator who intended to blow up
petrol stations or poison water reservoirs in the United States.
The three men were among 14 high-value suspects brought to
Guantanamo Bay in 2006 after years of secret detention in CIA
prisons in Eastern Europe.
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