NEW YORK - A Pakistani woman who studied at Brandeis University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and who was once identified as a possible Al Qaeda associate has been taken to New York to face charges she tried to kill US agents and military officers who were questioning her in Afghanistan, prosecutors said.
Aafia Siddiqui, who was shot last month during the wild confrontation, was expected to be arraigned in federal court in Manhattan today, US Attorney Michael Garcia said in a news release. A lawyer for her family said the allegations were false.
Siddiqui, 36, was stopped by Afghan police on July 17 outside a government building. The police searched her handbag and discovered documents giving instructions for explosives and chemical weapons and describing "various landmarks in the United States, including New York City," according to a criminal complaint, which did not identify the landmarks.
Siddiqui also was carrying "chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars," the complaint added.
The next day, as a team of FBI agents and US military officers prepared to question her, Siddiqui grabbed a rifle, pointed it at an Army captain and yelled that she wanted blood, prosecutors said. An interpreter pushed the rifle aside as she fired two shots, which missed, they said. One of two shots fired by a soldier in response hit her in the torso.
Even after being hit, Siddiqui struggled and shouted in English "that she wanted to kill Americans" before the officers subdued her, the complaint said.
The family attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, called the charges "a tall story."
The Boston-based lawyer also disputed the US government's earlier assertion that Siddiqui had gone underground for several years before her capture. The family suspects that after she vanished with her three children while in Pakistan in 2003, she was secretly held and possibly tortured there before US authorities brought charges to justify her detention. "I believe she's become a terrible embarrassment to them, but she's not a terrorist," the lawyer said.
At a 2004 news conference, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller III identified Siddiqui as one of seven people the FBI wanted to question about suspected ties to Al Qaeda. Though they never alleged she was a full-fledged member of Al Qaeda, authorities said they believed Siddiqui could be a "fixer," someone with knowledge of the United States who supported operatives trying to plot attacks.