WASHINGTON — An American-trained Pakistani neuroscientist was arrested last month in Afghanistan and has been charged with aiding Al Qaeda, American military and law enforcement officials said Monday.
The scientist, Aafia Siddiqui, who studied at Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was being transferred to New York where she will face criminal charges stemming from her ties to senior Al Qaeda operatives now imprisoned at Guanatanmo Bay, Cuba, the officials said.
Ms. Siddiqui, 36, mysteriously disappeared with her three children while visiting her parents’ home in Karachi, Pakistan, in March 2003, about the same time the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it wanted to question her.
Human rights group and a lawyer for Ms. Siddiqui, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, say they believe that Ms. Siddiqui has been secretly detained since 2003, for much of that time at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
“We believe Aafia has been in custody ever since she disappeared,” Ms. Sharp said in a telephone interview Monday, “and we’re not willing to believe that the discovery of Aafia in Afghanistan is coincidence.”
But American military and intelligence officials said that Ms. Siddiqui was in Pakistan for most of the past five years until she and her 12-year-old son were arrested in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 17. The American officials accused Ms Siddiqui trying to bomb the residence of Ghazni’s provincial governor.
“She was not in U.S. custody,” said a senior American intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the pending legal action against her.
The intelligence official said that Ms. Siddiqui was injured when an American soldier shot her while taking custody of her from Afghan police last month. Afghan officials initially said the shooting happened during an argument between the Americans and Afghans, but they later said Ms. Siddiqui lunged at one of the American soldiers, and he fired his rifle