Who is Aafia Siddiqui, Texas inmate known as 'Lady Al Qaeda'?

By Saturday night all four hostages had been safely released and the hostage-taker was killed, officials said. The suspect was not immediately identified. 

Siddiqui, also known in counterterrorism circles as “Lady Al-Qaeda,” was sentenced in 2010 after being convicted of shooting at U.S. service members in Afghanistan, authorities have said, according to the Dallas Morning News. She is being held at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

She was arrested in 2008 in Afghanistan in connection with an alleged Al-Qaeda plot for a “mass casualty attack” in the U.S. and other places, authorities said, according to the Morning News. After she was taken into custody she reportedly fired at U.S. interrogators with an M4 assault rifle belonging to a U.S. Army officer. 

Aafia Siddiqui, a possible al-Qaeda associate, is seen in the custody of Counter Terrorism Department of Ghazni province in Ghazni City, Afghanistan, July 17, 2008.

Aafia Siddiqui, a possible al-Qaeda associate, is seen in the custody of Counter Terrorism Department of Ghazni province in Ghazni City, Afghanistan, July 17, 2008. (Associated Press)

When she was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008, she was found with documents showing to make dirty bombs, chemical weapons and the weaponization of the Ebola virus. She also had sodium cyanide on her, authorizes said. 

Ties to 9/11 mastermind

She is also alleged to have ties to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, considered the main architect for 9/11. She worked as a courier for him and was briefly married to his nephew, Ammar al-Baluchi, a Guantánamo Bay prisoner accused of sending money to the 9/11 hijackers. 

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In 2004, Siddiqui had the dubious distinction of being the only woman on the FBI’s list of most-wanted Al-Qaeda fugitives. 

Siddiqui, 49, is a Pakistani neuroscientist with degrees from MIT and Brandeis, and despite her charges, she has many supporters who believe she is innocent or she was a casualty of the war on terror. 

Law enforcement officials block a residential street near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, where a man took hostages during services on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas.

Law enforcement officials block a residential street near Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, where a man took hostages during services on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. (Associated Press)

She left the U.S. for Pakistan with her husband and three children after 9/11 and they divorced after she reportedly wanted to help Taliban fighters on the Afghan border. She married al-Baluchi a year later. 

Claim of innocence

Some, however, say Siddiqui was wrongly accused.

“Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is serving an unjust 86-year prison sentence for a crime that she did not commit,” Faizan Syed, executive director of the Dallas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said last fall, according to the Morning News

People rally demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in February 2010 of two counts of attempted murder, and who is currently being detained in the U.S. during International Women's Day in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

People rally demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in February 2010 of two counts of attempted murder, and who is currently being detained in the U.S. during International Women’s Day in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, March 8, 2011. (Associated Press)

CAIR condemned Saturday’s hostage situation. National deputy director Edward Ahmed Mitchell called it “antisemitic” and an “unacceptable act of evil.”

But others claim Siddiqui was rightly prosecuted and convicted. 

“From everything I’ve read … I think she’s where she belongs,”  U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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