Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The very strange case of Aafia Siddiqi

The case of Aafia Siddiqui is a puzzler. I spent several hours yesterday reading whatever news accounts I could find, and there appear to be more versions of the story than Bush had excuses for invading Iraq.

What is indisputable is that Siddiqui is an MIT–trained Pakistani neuroscientist with a Ph.D. from Brandeis who was arrested in Afghanistan on July 17, shot by someone representing the U.S., patched up and subsequently transported to New York to face charges of attempting to kill U.S. personnel with one of their own rifles. No terrorism charges have been brought though the government claims she is an al-Qaeda operative.

Here's the alJazeerah report of her current arrest—

And a briefer report from the New York–based NTDTV

The initial criminal complaint filed by FBI agent Mehtab Ayeb gives the government's version—

b. On or about the evening of July 17, 2008, officers of the Ghazni Province Afghanistan National Police ("ANP") discovered a Pakistani woman, later identified as SIDDIQUI, along with a teenage boy, outside the Ghazni governor's compound. ANP officers questioned SIDDIQUI in the local dialects of Dari and Pashtu. SIDDIQUI did not respond and appeared to speak only Urdu, indicating that she was a foreigner.

c. Regarding SIDDIQUI as suspicious, ANP officers searched her handbag and found numerous documents describing the creation of explosives, chemical weapons, and other weapons involving biological material and radiological agents. SIDDIQUI's papers included descriptions of various landmarks in the United States, including in New York City. In addition, among SIDDIQUI's personal effects were documents detailing United States military assets, excerpts from the Anarchist's Arsenal, and a one gigabyte (1 gb) digital media storage device (thumb drive).

d. SIDDIQUI was also in possession of numerous chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars.

5. Based on my review of FBI and other law enforcement reports, as well as witness statements, I have learned the following:

a. On or about July 18, 2008, a party of United States personnel, including two FBI special agents, a United States Army Warrant Officer (the "Warrant Officer"), a United States Army Captain (the "Captain"), and United States military interpreters, arrived at the Afghan facility where AAFIA SIDDIQUI, the defendant, was being held.

b. The personnel entered a second floor meeting room. A yellow curtain was stretched across the length of that room, concealing a portion of it from sight. None of the United States personnel were aware that SIDDIQUI was being held, unsecured, behind the curtain.

c. The Warrant Officer took a seat with a solid wall behind him and the curtain to his right. The Warrant Officer placed his United States Army M-4 rifle on the floor to his right next to the curtain, near his right foot. The weapon was loaded, but was on safe.

d. Shortly after the meeting began, the Captain heard a woman's voice yell from the vicinity of the curtain. The Captain turned to the noise and saw SIDDIQUI in the portion of the room behind the curtain, which was now drawn slightly back. SIDDIQUI was holding the Warrant Officer's rifle and pointing it directly at the Captain.

e. The Captain heard SIDDIQUI say in English, "May the blood of [unintelligible] be directly on your [unintelligible, possibly head or hands]." The Captain saw an interpreter ("Interpreter 1"), who was seated closest to SIDDIQUI, lunge at SIDDIQUI and push the rifle away as SIDDIQUI pulled the trigger.

f. The Warrant Officer saw and heard SIDDIQUI fire at least two shots as Interpreter 1 tried to wrestle the gun from her. No one was hit. The Warrant Officer heard SIDDIQUI exclaim, "Allah Akbar!" Another interpreter ("Interpreter 2") heard SIDDIQUI yell in English, "Get the fuck out of here", as she fired the rifle. 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.

g. 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. Interpreter 2 also saw SIDDIQUI strike and kick the officers trying to restrain her. After being subdued, SIDDIQUI temporarily lost consciousness. The agents and officers then rendered medical aid to SIDDIQUI.

On Monday a New York judge postponed a bail hearing until September 3 but ordered that Siddiqi be given access to medical care within 24 hours, which according to her lawyers Siddiqi had not received since being held in the U.S.

This case is playing big in Pakistan. The Pakistani media are sparing no effort to cover the proceedings, and there is a move in the parliament to have the government pay for Siddiqui's legal expenses.

And President Musharraf?

The Siddiqi case may cause further political problems for Pervez Musharraf, who is facing the choice of resignation or a possible impeachment trial. There are allegations circulating in Pakistan that Siddiqui was turned over to the U.S. by the military or the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

In the alJazeerah video above, Iqbal Hyder of the Pakistani Human Rights Commission protests—

... if the President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf in his book "In the Line of Fire" admits that he has been selling the bodies of the Pakistani citizens to the FBI and the US State Department, ... then it's a very serious situation.

The link between Siddiqi's disappearance and the Musharraf government was reviewed last week by Syed Shoaib Hasan of the BBC—

Aafia Siddiqui, whom the US accuses of al-Qaeda links, vanished in Karachi with her three children on 30 March 2003.

The next day it was reported in local newspapers that a woman had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.

Initially, confirmation came from a Pakistan interior ministry spokesman.

But a couple of days later, both the Pakistan government and the FBI publicly denied having anything to do with her disappearance.

Two days after Aafia Siddiqui went missing, "a man wearing a motor-bike helmet" arrived at the Siddiqui home in Karachi, her mother told the BBC.

"He did not take off the helmet, but told me that if I ever wanted to see my daughter and grandchildren again, I should keep quiet," Ms Siddiqui's mother told me over the phone in 2003.

The mother, who has since died, also related the affair to other newspapers.

But the government continued to deny having anything to do with her daughter's disappearance.

This is despite the fact that Mrs Siddiqui's other daughter, Fauzia, says she was told by then Interior Minister Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat in 2004 that her sister had been released and would return home shortly.

Research at the time refused to turn up anything on the status of Aafia Siddiqui - she was not listed as wanted by any federal or Pakistani agency.

At that point, it seemed she had vanished off the face of the earth.

Today's Wall Street Journal Asia editorial "Impeaching Musharraf" rhapsodizes about the declining president and disparages his recently elected opponents—

Under his eight-year rule, he netted al Qaeda operatives, supported the breakup of the A.Q. Khan proliferation network, made peace with India, and committed blood and treasure to crack down on the Taliban in Pakistan's border regimes.

In contrast, the weak governing coalition led by the party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has shown little of the same resolve.

But the Bush administration may have thrown in the towel on Musharraf. Bringing Aafia Siddiqi to the U.S. for trial furthers the appearance, though it can hardly be said to be winning the hearts and minds of Musharraf's opponents.

Meanwhile the case of Aafia Siddiqi looks to offer conspiracy lovers of whatever stripe material to mull over for months to come.


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