In August 2014, ISIS tried to secure the release from a U.S. federal prison of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui — a Pakistani neuroscientist educated in the United States — formerly known as the “most wanted woman alive,” but now referred to as “Lady al Qaeda”, by exchanging her for American war correspondent James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 in Syria. When the proposed swap failed, Foley was beheaded in a gruesome propaganda video produced and released by his captors, while Siddiqui remained in jail serving an 86-year sentence.
ISIS also offered to exchange Siddiqui for a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped in Syria while working with humanitarian aid groups. Two years earlier, the Taliban had tried to make a similar deal, offering to release U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for Siddiqui. These efforts speak volumes about Siddiqui’s profile and importance in Islamist circles.
Her affiliation with Islamist ideology began when she was a student, first at M.I.T. and then at Brandeis University, where she obtained her doctorate in 2001. Her second marriage happened to be to Ammar al-Baluchi (Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali), nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.
During the 1995-6 academic year, Siddiqui wrote three sections of the Muslim Students Association “Starter’s Guide” — “Starting and Continuing a Regular Dawah [Islamic proselytizing] Table”, “10 Characteristics of an MSA Table” and “Planning A Lecture” — providing ideas on how successfully to infiltrate North American campuses.
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