Malik Faisal Akram, 44-year-old Pakistani Briton who took four people hostage in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, wanted to free al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani-American neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, a celebrity Muslim woman among the jihadi circle
Malik Faisal Akram, 44-year-old Pakistani Briton who took four people hostage in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, wanted to free al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani-American neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, a celebrity Muslim woman among the jihadi circle. Akram, who was killed by US security forces, wasn’t the first to attempt to free her.
In Pakistan, Aafia is considered innocent, someone who became the victim of the US war on terror—a two-decade-long war that began after the World Trade Centre attack in September 2001 - marred by several allegations of human rights abuses, especially those against Muslims around the world.
She enjoys a status of a “sister” of Islam, with her support base ranging from militant groups to religious parties and even the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, who in 2019 suggested exchanging her with Shakil Afridi, the Pakistan doctor currently serving a life sentence in Pakistan for allegedly helping the US intelligence agency CIA in identifying Bin Laden.
Aafia, currently in the US serving her 86-year prison sentence, has had a murky history. Her second marriage to Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had alarm bells ringing in 2003, both within the Pakistani intelligence circles and the US intelligence community.
However, the most mysterious part of her story is the missing years between 2003 to 2008. Officials’ versions claim she went missing from her parental home in Karachi in 2003 till her capture in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province by the Afghan police force in 2008. Those who call her innocent, claiming she was abducted by the US intelligence operatives, are now lobbying for her release. However, these claims were denied by her first husband, Amjad Khan, a Karachi-based doctor, in a report publicized by The Guardian. The couple divorced in 2002.
Amjad, who was also interrogated by both CIA and ISI, told The Guardian that she was under the watchful eyes of ISI during her so-called missing years between 2003 to 2009. Prior to their divorce, he said he observed her aggressive personality, often asking him to go for jihad in Afghanistan. Aafia’s sister, however, denied and presented a different account, blaming US operatives for arresting her illegally. However, she deliberately hid much of the details.
In the US, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is among Muslim organizations fighting for her release. According to a report in The Print, around 56 people– besides Malik in Texas - have been killed so far across the world while attempting to get her free. For many sympathizers, she is a “living martyr.”