In the final ransom note to the James Foley family before the execution of freelance journalist James Foley, Islamic State militants mentioned Aafia Siddiqui, an accused member of Al Qaeda who once lived in the Boston area and studied at MIT and Brandeis.
Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison in September 2010 for attempted murder of American soldiers, and has long been suspected of being a central figure in the terrorist organization that plotted and executed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In the note sent on Aug. 12, which was released by GlobalPost, the militants claimed they offered to return Foley and other captured Americans in exchange for the return of incarcerated Muslims like their “sister,” Siddiqui.
According to Globe files, Siddiqui immigrated to the United States as a teenager in 1990, where she later earned a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995 and a Ph.d. from Brandeis University in 2001. Shortly after graduating from MIT, Siddiqui had an arranged marriage and bore three children. She and her family mostly lived in the Boston area until 2002.
She researched biology and neurology, The Associated Press reported in 2003. The places she lived included a high-rise apartment building in Boston’s Mission Hill section and an apartment in a house in suburban Lexington. She spent much of her time preaching the Muslim faith, teaching religion classes at a Roxbury mosque. She also founded a program to distribute Korans and other materials to college campuses. And in another project, she distributed Korans to prison inmates.
Siddiqui returned to Pakistan in 2002, where she and her husband divorced and she married Ammar al-Baluchi, the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. In March 2003, around the same time the US announced Siddiqui was wanted for questioning by the FBI, she disappeared with her children, the Globe reported.
Siddiqui’s whereabouts were unknown for five years, until she was arrested by Afghan police in July 2008, when she was deemed suspicious for being a literate woman who did not speak the local language in Ghazni, Afghanistan.
She was found to be carrying poison, chemicals often used in making bombs, and detailed plans for potential weapons — including bombs and viruses — to use in attacks against the United States. Siddiqui later admitted to planning a suicide attack against the provincial governor in Ghazni, according to Globe files.
On July 18, 2008, while American soldiers were taking custody of her, Siddiqui grabbed a rifle and fired at them. She missed, and was subdued after she was shot in the torso.
Following a two-week trial during January and February 2010, Siddiqui was found guilty of attempted murder and assault and was later sentenced to prison. Now 42, she is currently being held at the Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.Kiera Blessing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.