AQ's "hit woman" arrested, extradited

The curious case of Aafia Siddiqui took another strange turn overnight.  Originally thought to have disappeared from a bad marriage in Pakistan, the US eventually suspected that Siddiqui had bolted after the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a few weeks before she dropped out of sight.  Captured on July 17th in Afghanistan, she tried to shoot her way out of detention and took two bullets for her effort — but she will face an American judge today in New York City:

A US trained scientist wanted for questioning in connection with terrorism cases has been shipped to New York and charged with attempted murder after a shootout with her would-be questioners following her arrest in Afghanistan last month, the US Attorney in New York said Monday. …

The day after her arrest by Afghani authorities on July 17th, Siddiqui was shot twice in the torso, US officials said, when she grabbed a US soldier’s M-4 carbine and attempted to shoot another officer as a team of US soldiers and FBI agents prepared to question her. A US interpreter threw off her aim when he pushed the gun. She then was shot twice with a .9 millimeter handgun, authorities said. According to the US Government, despite her wounds, she shouted that she “wanted to kill Americans,” and struggled with her captors before they subdued her.

According to a joint press release issued together with the New York City Police Department, Siddiqui was arrested outside the Ghazni governor’s compound by Ghazni Province Afghanistan National Police.

The ANP officers “questioned Siddiqui, regarded her as suspicious, and searched her handbag. In it, they found numerous documents describing the creation of explosives, as well as excerpts from the Anarchist’s Arsenal.”

Siddiqui, a Pakistani national and an MIT graduate, had garnered international attention for years.  The US government had publicly called for information leading to her capture, calling her a person of interest.  Terror alerts in Boston in 2004 and in Maryland were believed to be related to her.  KSM himself named Siddiqui as an al-Qaeda associate, one more involved in support issues than in conducting attacks — more like a “fixer” than a direct terrorist threat.

After spending years attempting to find Siddiqui, Human Rights Watch accused the US of holding Siddiqui incognito at a Bagram jail in Afghanistan.  The “Gray Lady of Bagram” raised enough controversy that a Paksitani lawyer petitioned for information on the supposedly insane prisoner to determine whether she was Siddiqui.  The accusation was part of allegations made by HRW and Amnesty International about American detention practices in the war on terror.

Now, however, it looks like Siddiqui had been free all along, and had moved from fixer to operative.  However, the description of her capture sounds a little strange.  After her arrest two weeks ago, Siddiqui allegedly was left unsecured when American interrogators brought weapons into her room.  She managed to get one and point it at one of the men, but gave a little terrorist soliloquy before pulling the trigger, giving one of the interpreters enough time to deflect the rifle and the shot while another interrogator shot her in the torso.

Doesn’t that sound a wee bit suspicious?  Do interrogators normally bring rifles into a room with an unsecured prisoner?  At the very least, security protocols need to be rethought.  Perhaps we will find out more in the next few weeks, as Siddiqui finally answers for her activities as the most prominent woman in the AQ network.