Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani prisoner in the United States whose release was allegedly sought by a Texas hostage taker over the weekend, is serving an 86-year prison sentence for the attempted murder of American soldiers.
Four people were released unharmed on Sunday after a standoff lasting more than 10 hours at a synagogue in the US state. Their alleged captor was killed.
Media, citing a US official briefed on the matter, reported that the man was calling for the release of 49-year-old Siddiqui.
His attorney said in a statement to CNN that she had “absolutely no involvement” in the hostage-taking and condemned the man’s actions.
A Pakistani scientist trained in the United States, she was imprisoned in 2010 for attacking American soldiers in Afghanistan.
She was the first woman to be suspected of ties to al-Qaeda by the United States, but never convicted.
At 18, Siddiqui traveled to the United States, where her brother lived, to study at the prestigious MIT in Boston, later earning a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University.
But after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she appeared on the FBI’s radar for donations to Islamic organizations and was linked to the purchase of $10,000 worth of night vision goggles and books about the war.
The US suspected she had joined al-Qaeda from America, returning to Pakistan where she married into the family of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – an architect of the 9/11 attacks.
She disappeared around 2003, with her three children, in Karachi.
Five years later, she found herself in Pakistan’s war-torn neighboring Afghanistan, where she was arrested by local forces in the country’s restive southeastern province of Ghazni.
“Death to America”
During interrogation by US forces, she grabbed a gun and opened fire, while shouting “Death to America” and “I want to kill Americans”.
The soldiers escaped unscathed, but she was injured.
Her imprisonment has sparked outrage in her home country and her supporters claim she was the victim of a secret plot between Pakistan and the United States.
After his conviction, the number two of Al-Qaeda called on Muslims to “revenge” the decision.
His release has previously been a focus of activist demands, including in two hostage crises in Pakistan as well as the capture of James Foley, an American journalist who was beheaded by Islamic State in 2014.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asia analyst, tweeted: “Siddiqui isn’t well known in the US, but in Pakistan she’s a big name – many see her as an innocent victim.
In a previous article, he described her as a cause celebre among terrorists and said she was seen as a “powerful symbol of how Americans are treating innocent Muslims badly in the global campaign against terrorism.”
The issue has remained a matter of long-standing tension between Pakistan and the United States.
During his election campaign, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, an outspoken critic of US action in the war on terror, vowed to free her. He offered to release Shakeel Afridi, who is languishing in a Pakistani prison for his role in helping Americans track down al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)