The case of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui

August 14, 2008

Five years after she vanished from her parents’ home in Karachi along with her three children, Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia  Siddiqui appeared in a New York court last week accused of trying to kill U.S. officers in Afghanistan

Accounts of her arrest and the shooting incident differ. 


Siddiqui, 36, was arrested outside the governor’s office in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on July 17 after police searched her handbag and found documents on making explosives, excerpts from the book “Anarchist’s Arsenal” and descriptions of New York City landmarks, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The next day when U.S. soldiers and FBI agents went to question  the U.S.-trained neuroscientist, she attacked them, the Justice Department said in a statement. She fired two shots using the rifle of one of the U.S.. army officers but nobody was hit. The officer then fired back at her, using his service pistol and at least one shot hit her, the Justice Department said.

Afghan police in Ghazni however, told a different story, according to a report filed by Reuters. Afghan police said officers searched Siddiqui after reports of her suspicious behaviour and found maps of Ghazni, including one of the governor’s house, and arrested her along with a teenage boy.

U.S. troops requested the woman be handed over to them, but the police refused, a senior Ghazni police officer said.

U.S. soldiers then proceeded to disarm the Afghan police at which point Siddiqui approached the Americans complaining of mistreatment by the police. The U.S. troops, the officer said, “thinking that she had explosives and would attack them as a suicide bomber, shot her and and took her”. The boy remained in police custody.

 Whatever the circumstance, Siddiqui was then flown to New York where she appeared in a wheelchair, looking frail and, according to her lawyers, in urgent need of medical attention.

The case bears recounting, not just because Siddiqui is a MIT  educated mother of three, but because it has roused strong passions especially in Pakistan.

Since the time of her disappearance in 2003  human rights groups have alleged Siddiqui had been taken into secret custody, one of thousands of Pakistanis who had disappeared in the U.S.-led war on al Qaeda and Taliban. They said they believed she was in Bagram, the U.S. air base in Afghanistan.


U.S. authorities strongly denied Siddiqui was in custody, and according to the New York Times,  military and intelligence officials believed her to be in Pakistan until her arrest in Afghanistan last month.

Protests have taken place in Karachi, Lahore and even outside the court in Manhattan where Siddiqui appeared . The anger is directed as much, if not more, at the Pakistani government and its  agencies who are accused of handing over Siddiqui to the United States as at Washington itself.

There are online petitions seeking Siddiqui’s release and others warning this is only the tip of the iceberg and that there are many others at risk. Comments on blogs reflect  anger, shame and helplessness. to undo what many see as a terrible wrong done to her,

On Wednesday, the Pakistani Foreign Office said it had protested against the detention of Siddiqui’s three children and demanded their repatriation.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Human rights and international laws should previal in this so-called ‘war on terror’ led by US. While the new democratic government in Pakistan should fully cooperate to root out terrorism, it must let the world know that Pakistani citizen’s rights and life is valuable. The Pakistani Government should stand behind its citizen and defend their rights. Ms. Aafia Siddiqui should be immediately released, there is no question of her being a radical as an MIT educated individual.
I wonder if there is any Delta or American flight connecting Kabul International to JFK where Ms. Aafia was ready to board the plane with full preparation armed with NY city maps to hit the city. The idea that she had maps of NY City in her handbag is absolutely ridiculuos and shameful. I think the US officials who alleged this were drunk. How foolish is this, if a person want to really create any mayhem in a city. Why would he roam about with city maps in his pocket and related info? He would rather not keep anything in person and do everything covertly.
Whatever the case, Ms Aafia’s case have come to the limelight now. Pakistan and its people stand behind her and demand that she be released and the State Dept be sued and pay her damages done to her health, career, and family and her future.

Posted by UMPK | Report as abusive

Aasfia Siddiqui had a thumb drive (USB drive…computer related hardware, for folks who don’t know what it is)… that had those “maps” and plans. UMPK’s ridiculous assumption that a map and documents where just sticking out of her purse with makeup and such…

The problem IS the human rights aspect. Why should “human rights” triumph the rights of those who would be killed by these terrorists and their sympathizers? Human rights mean nothing if people can abuse them to take your own human rights away from you via bomb and allahu ackbar terrorist attack.

Islam is a disgusting religion in its current form and the problem is the “moderates” who do nothing instead of truly condemn the action of evil men. UMPK above is making excuses for terrorists and is inclined to be a terrorist themselves. Because you are either supporting terrorism or excusing it, pal.

Posted by Bill Jenkins | Report as abusive

UMPK is in full denial…if you have nothing to hide, why would you have ANYTHING in your possession to suggest bombings and maps of important places. Especially if you acknowledge she already is a radical…and by the way, not all MIT students are radicals. She is guilty but they messed up on the reasoning to the people. Why live in denial instead of calling for the Pakistani government to go into the tribal sections to hunt for the terrorist…OH yeah…because it’s the easy way out. We should start calling you an overweight American now! See that, I can acknowledge our shames as well.

Posted by UMPKindenial | Report as abusive

[…] attempting to murder to US officers. Reports of the actual events in Siddiqui’s arrest vary. Some say it was outside the governor’s residence in Ghazni, some say it was inside, some […]

Posted by Aafia Siddiqui « GiRl SpY | Report as abusive

Bill Jenkins
Ms Aafia Siddiqui has not been convicted by any court as yet. She is still facing trial and is innocent until proven guilty. So, she is not a terrorist. FYI
And, also I am not making any excuses for terrorism.

Posted by UMPK | Report as abusive

Where did i acknowledge Ms Aafia being a radical, learn to read. I said above
” there is no question of her being a radical as an MIT educated individual.”
Education is very important for a person, it makes you think in a rational manner. A person with a US education can simply not have any radical views. Its only the young minds vulnerable to radicalization.
In my view its unlikely that the charges made against her would prove true. If there will be enough evidence to prove her innocence, she will be definitely released.

Posted by UMPK | Report as abusive


You appear to know a lot about this case. Can I ask you some simple questions?

1). Where are her children?
2). Why has not her ex-husband made any statement in reference to this case and the disappearance of the children?

In addition, I find it quite odd of her second marriage to the relative of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. I know her family has denied it but the family of KSM says otherwise.

By the way, I am a Muslim and do not think, I am ignorant. My questions are sincere and I do sincerely hope that Aafia Siddiqui is given justice. In that light, I do pray that Muslims around the world will also accept whatever comes out in this case and not pass judgment against Americans for bring to justice Aafia Siddiqui. For me, American is home, even though I was not born here.

Thank you in advance.

Posted by ucisee | Report as abusive

Excuse my typos.

I meant to say, “for me America is my home, even though I was not born here.


Posted by ucisee | Report as abusive

People like ‘Bill Jenkins’ are so mislead its hopelessly useless to try and offer them some light. But I’d still try to:

Mr. Jenkins, even if she had the USB with maps of mainstream US landmarks, why the hell would she carry that USB stick with her? Do some research pal and open up your eyes and your head and don’t just assume blindly that what ever you think is right.

Dr. Aafia IS NOT proven guilty of any crime – and this latest story from your US freaks was nothing but a joke: dr. aafia hiding behind a curtain, picking up a gun without the us freaks knowing, and then shooting and missing! wow! one of the most ridiculous scripts i’ve ever read.. must’ve been done in real hurry mate!

Posted by Kamran | Report as abusive

Mr. Jenkins,

Saying that Moderate Muslims are partley to blame for the atrocities that extremeists execute is like saying that Moderate Christians are to blames for children being made into mothers and wives in the name of Christianity. We all must deal with the fact that there are moderate and extreme versions of ALL religions, not just Islam.

Why should human right “trump” the rights of so-called terroists? Because once you allow there human rights to be infringed upon, it opens the doors for all to be abused. We CANNOT use laws when its convenient, they must be applied to all people all the time, without prejudice.

Posted by Nairobi | Report as abusive

I could go into a lot of detail for a reply. But i will keep it very short.
I call Pakistan my home, the later half of 2007 was so horrific, it seemed Pakistan was on fire literally with terrorist incidents at an alarming rate. I personally lost my hope of any future on the 27th of December 2007 and afterwards. My heart was beating on an alarming rate that moment when i learnt of Benazir Bhutto’s assasination. It seemed to me that its only a matter of time before everything comes to an end. Terror was at the doorstep, it was a sense of complete insecurity. There was no idea of what will come next.
Its ridiculous for still people to think Pakistanis to be terrorists or link Islam to terrorism, while we have been the victims ourselves.
This year, things have improved to an extent, lets pray the world becomes a safer place. Ameen

Posted by UMPK | Report as abusive

Your civil rights cease when they interfere with mine. That is how it works.

This woman is far from the innocent lamb some are trying to make her out to be. Do some research beyond the events of the past 2 weeks. It’s out there, and not just in the US press. This woman had intent and she had ability, and she intended to do much harm with it. Now she is wrapped up and taken out of play. You all should be glad. Biological weapons are not target-specific…they affect everything they come in contact with. If she was successful in dispersing biological agents, many more people that who she was specifically targeting would have been injured or killed.

Posted by FrankM | Report as abusive

The story of suspicious maps reminds me of the story of Ahmad Abou El-Maati — a Canadian delivery truck driver. He normally made local deliveries in Ottawa. On a delivery that required him crossing the US border, officials searched his truck, and found a map of Ottawa with some hand written annotations. The map included the locations of some complexes of government buildings — locations where his firm routinely made deliveries.

Attorney General Ashcroft routinely described el-Maati’s capture as the thwarting of an al Qaida plot to launch bomb attacks against the Canadian government — even though this widely availabe free map for visitors was a perfectly reasonable thing for a delivery truck to contain. It remains unclear who annotated this totally mundane map, or if el-Maati was even aware it was in the truck — a truck used by other drivers with his firm.

Commercially purchased maps routinely show the locations of government buildings. In this day and age bottles of suspicious liquids might only be mundane female grooming products — shampoo, perfume, face cream…

I find the Afghan account more credible than the American account.

Posted by arcticredriver | Report as abusive

One of the mysteries of Dr Aafia’s story concerns the breakup of her first marraige. It is very widely reported that the issue that broke up her marraige to the doctor was that he wanted to return to Pakistan, where their children could have a strict Muslim education — while Aafia wanted to remain in the USA — where their children would have the benefit of a liberal, secular education.

If she split with a husband because she wanted her children to get a liberal secular education in early 2002 how the heck are we to believe she married an al Qaeda leader in late 2002?

My prediction? I bet, if the full story ever comes out, it will turn out either that the al Qaeda leader married someone with a name vaguely like hers — or she entered into a second marraige with someone whose name vaguely resembled the al Qaeda leaders — and she never even met the al Qaeda guy even once.

Posted by arcticredriver | Report as abusive

Aafia Siddiqui is in connection with terrorist plot’s why is everyone so defending of her ?? Especially US. Citizens think back to 9/11 they were heartless killed Many Americans Innocent people imagine going to work just a normal day and a plane flying in the building where you work at or you being on that plane feeling helpless as these people drive the plane your on into a building.This is not up for debate my friend,what goes around comes around in all religions remember God approves and disaproves of your actions if you do well he approves if you do bad he disaproves The Terrorist did bad we are taking out the strong links 1 by 1 and creating weak links to make US. a safer place to Enjoy Life Its a Dog it Dog World

Posted by Ryan B. | Report as abusive

She was arrested in Pakistan and handed over to Americans. Thats the Pakistani media side of the story. I that be a possibility how come she attacked American troops. First question to be settled is ” Where she was arrested”. Memory drives and papers ha ha who knows if these allegations are just as the WMDs of Iraq.

Posted by Ghulam | Report as abusive

Regardless of guilt or innocence of Aafia Siddiqui on terrorism charges, it is now commonly believed in Pakistan that she has been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment and held without due process for a long time. Unfortunately, incidents such as these fuel resentment against the US and Pakistani military and strengthen the extreme elements in Pakistan to go out and commit more acts of terror claiming more innocent lives of mostly Muslims. The high-profile Aafia Siddiqui case is comparable to Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib in its potential impact on Pakistanis support for the war on terror. She has become the symbol of the extraordinary excesses of this war. She represents the recognizable face of the hundreds of missing Pakistanis since 911. Unless the US and Pakistani authorities come clean on this case, it will represent yet another blow to the US and moderate Muslims in the battle for the hearts and minds of the average Muslims, Afghani and Pakistani.

Posted by Riaz Haq | Report as abusive

I am totaly disgusted at US tactics of fighting the so called war on terror! its creating terror all across. We all know 9/11 was an inside job! Islam is a beautiful religion, first it was the Nazi, than cold war came and now this war on terror! US Governement has never seriously worked on resolving issues of muslim countries, remember Kashmir.

Global domination has gone way to far for America, I am ashamed to be an American!

Posted by John | Report as abusive

i think that the time has come for the pakistani government to make a decision whether we want to continue our alliance with the US on tne war or terror or not, american people call pakistanis terrorists inspite of all the stuff pakistan has done for them.we have handed over the most terrorists, hundreds of thousands of innocent pakistanis have lost their lives for the costly war of terror. americans are filthy scumbags. american aid is poisoning the pakistani nation. americans render support to the dictators for killing people and most of them are innocent, and call themselves the supporters of democracy. shame on you………….

Posted by Cq | Report as abusive

First of all, Bill Jenkins, I don’t understand why you say Islamic moderates don’t condemn terrorists. What do you base the assertion on? Pakistan is conducting a military campaign against terrorists in it’s Northern areas. We’ve lost 3000 of our own people to suicide bombers in the last year. I assure you, come to Pakistan and you will see plenty of public condemnation and moderates who hate terrorists who blow up innocents.

Aafia has been missing from Pakistan in 2003. Before anyone blithely assumes she joined a terrorist camp,her family and human rights activists have been claiming for years that the government abducted her and handed her over to American custody(alongwith with many other terror suspects).

The Supreme court of Pakistan gave the accounts of forced disappearances enough credence to investigate and demand the government produce scores of individuals (2007). Indeed these events played no small part in the fallout between judiciary and government, which eventually led to the downfall of the military regime of Musharraf.

There are many troubling details here. The revelation Aafia’s lawyer that she claims she has indeed been in detention in Afghanistan for years. The gun-shot wounds. Her horrible medical condition and kidney problems. Her 3 missing children. Testimony by her family that they’ve been repeatedly threatened by Pakistani government officials over the last 4 years not to probe too much into her case or whereabouts.

If she was not under official custody, why would the government threaten family who pushed her case? Why would the Supreme Court give claims of widespread forced disappearances credence? Why would the government feel such discomfort on these charges, that they had the Supreme Court chief justice arrested on trumped up charges?

To be clear, public opinion in Pakistan is NOT springing to the defence of someone they believe to be a terrorist. Rather, people here believe that the government handed her over to American custody in 2003 out of over-eagerness to please(on the basis that her husband was a relative of Khalid Sheikh) and that the current charges are a fabrication and cover up.

Much as I hate to say this, US credibility over here (and in my eyes) has dipped since WMD never showed up in Iraq and with the horrors that came to light of Abu-Ghraib. More importantly, consider the suspicious behavior of Pakistani authorities covering up her case for years, and obviously people will doubt this latest account which portrays her as a super-terrorist.

It may simply be that people in Pakistan have the wrong version of events, and that there are innocent explanations of all the troubling details I mention (and many more I forget). I’m reserving judgment on whether Aafia is indeed a terrorist or not. If she is, and the American version is accurate, then she deserves punishment.

However, I (and the people of Pakistan) will continue to hold grave doubts that she is being victimized unfairly until evidence shows otherwise. For Bill Jenkins to suggest that such concern for a Pakistani citizen is because we “are either supporting terrorism or excusing it” is rooted in a lack of understanding of the full context of the case, or local opinion.

I’m sure no Pakistani would call for Aafia’s release if she was indeed a terrorist. Nor would any American support her being held if it was a frameup/cover-up. Before coming to any conclusions or name-calling, I simply want to see all the troubling discrepancies and unanswered questions dealt with.
I’m not sure if I have confidence in either American or Pakistani authorities to give her a fair trial, and I’d much prefer an international body such as the ICJ to deal with her case.

Posted by Amirali | Report as abusive

Bill Jenkins,
Lets say that everything you said is correct and the so called “US war on terror” (what abt. the US claims of Iraqi weapons of Mass desturction) is justified. Still i would like you or anybody who thinks that the poeple held in secret detentions are terrorists explain the captivity of Mozzam Baig.
He was held at secret detention centers and then at the Guantanamo Bay for 3-4 years and finally released without being charged for anything.
Can the US army or the US authorities give him back the three years of his life?
If you go back in history you fill find that the terrorists are those people who were trained by the US in its war aginst Russia.

Posted by facethetruth | Report as abusive

Hey ignorant Bill, Can you prove she had a “thumb drive”? Can you prove she was going to blow up buildings? No you can’t. ALL you have is an ACCUSATION, a WORD. A Complaint. This is why our Founding Fathers instituted due process and “innocent until proven guilty” so as to prevent the European style torture-inquisition where one Party A accuses Party B and Party B is tortured and put to death based on Party A’s finger-pointing. That is NOT what America is about. I can sit here and say your mama raped your two year old neighbor. That is an accusation. There is no proof for it. Perhaps America is not the place for you. You need to go either back in time to medieval Europe or the Spanish Inquisition, or some other country that doesn’t believe in due process.

Posted by A. Miller | Report as abusive

Mr. Ryan B,

For your concern regarding the 9/11, The American Producer Mr. Maechal Moore, the one who produced Fahrenheit 911, can easily anwer for your questions. who was behind the 9/11 ATTACH.


Posted by Niaz Khan | Report as abusive

i hate america..please please protest against america how can a mother of 3 children kill.please please proest againt america

Posted by aleena | Report as abusive

plzzzzz protest against america..leave aafia for god say she can’t be killer

Posted by aleena | Report as abusive

Aafia’s case is something like many others who find themselves detained by u.s. military, except that she is a woman and a mother.
Also there are glaring holes in the stories they are trying to sell about her. None of it makes much sense,and there is no continuous narrative.

Actually being arrested and jailed by the u.s. military should be accepted of proof of innocence.

I am very sorry for what has been done to her.

the last news i heard is she was supposed to stand trial in fort worth texas. why texas i don’t know- maybe so one of bush’s judges would hear the case?

then she was pronounced unfit to go to trial. psychiatric problems they said. In other words, after hounding her all these years, torturing her in Bagram, they have finally driven her crazy. Will they finally let the poor woman go now? I do hope so.

Posted by paul siemering | Report as abusive

Aafia has been disappeared and this is not just about the brutal injustice system this country uses anymore. Hell yes, they have captured and tortured another innocent woman, and I do not believe one word of what the say.

but I was looking for news of her tonight and can not find a trace of what’s happened since they locked her up in Texas. most reports are from last august, and the very latest is a scary report that she was mentally unfit to stand trial in november of last year. How can all the reporters in the world ignore her like this? is there some reason for it? if they go to the jail in Texas and ask to see her, what happens?

we need answers.

Posted by paul siemering | Report as abusive

[…] coincided with American accounts in the case. For example, the highly respected news wire service Reuters reported that Afghan officials offered a different version about Siddiqui’s alleged capture in […]

Posted by Dr. Aafia Siddiqui – The Punishment Does Not Fit the Crime | | Report as abusive