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Pakistani Woman Wanted by FBI

April 23, 2003

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ The mother of a Pakistani woman wanted for questioning about possible al-Qaida connections said Wednesday her daughter vanished early this month and that her daughter’s estranged husband may be behind her disappearance.

Aafia Siddiqui, a 31-year-old former graduate student in Boston, is wanted by the FBI for questioning about possible contacts with members of Osama Bin Laden’s terror network. The FBI also wants to question her husband, Dr. Amjad Mohammed Khan.

Ismat Siddiqui told The Associated Press at her home in the southern city of Karachi that her daughter had been living with her until early April but has been out of touch since setting off to visit a friend and an uncle in the capital, Islamabad.

``I am concerned for my daughter’s safety,″ Ismat Siddiqui said in a tearful interview. ``I don’t know where she is.″

She said she last saw her daughter as she got into a minicab along with her three children to go to Islamabad. She became concerned after ``a stranger came to my house and threatened me.″

The man rode up on a motorcycle warned her ``not to make a fuss″ about the disappearance if she cared for her daughter’s safety, she said.

``Since then I am running from pillar to post to seek the safe recovery of my daughter,″ she said. Pakistani government officials tried to calm her fears. They told her to be ``patient and not rely on media reports″ about her fate, she said.

The Pakistani authorities have denied having Siddiqui in custody.

Ismat Siddiqui said her daughter didn’t have any connections with terrorists.

``Rest assured, my daughter has nothing to do with al-Qaida or any other organization,″ she said.

She didn’t know who might be holding her daughter, but described Khan, the estranged husband, as a controlling and mysterious person who she said might have something to do with it.

Ismat Siddiqui said Khan had abused Aafia and that her daughter was seeking a divorce. Neither Khan nor any member of his family had been in touch since she vanished, she said.

At the time of the couple’s arranged marriage, she said, the Siddiqui family was under the impression that Khan, a doctor, had a non-fundamentalist outlook. But Khan later sent the couple’s children to an Islamic seminary over the objections of the Siddiquis.

She said the couple lived in the United States until shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

``For seven years, he had not allowed Aafia to come to Pakistan. But, after the Sept. 11 attacks, he suddenly brought her and the children here,″ she said.

The FBI in March put out a global alert for Aafia Siddiqui, who has a biology degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and wrote a doctoral thesis on neurological sciences at Brandeis University in 2001.

U.S. authorities have not alleged that Siddiqui is a member of al-Qaida but believe she could be a ``fixer,″ someone with knowledge of the United States who can support and help get things done for other operatives.

Authorities say she visited the Maryland suburbs near Washington in December or January. Ismat Siddiqui said her daughter made that trip alone, without Khan or their children.

She also said U.S. authorities had questioned another daughter and a son living in the United States.

``They have been reached and questioned by U.S. officials, but not harmed,″ she said. They were not detained.

Ismat Siddiqui insisted that Aafia, as a Pakistani citizen, should not be handed over to the United States if found.

Reports of her arrest began when a Pakistani newspaper, The News, ran a story at the end of March saying Pakistani and FBI agents had detained Siddiqui in Karachi. But one week later, The News quoted Siddiqui’s mother denying the report.

On Tuesday, two U.S. law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, initially said Aafia Siddiqui recently was taken into custody by Pakistani authorities.

But Pakistani officials never confirmed the arrest and later the U.S. officials amended their earlier statements, saying new information from the Pakistani government made it ``doubtful″ she was in custody.

It was not clear whether a different woman had been arrested or if the initial information was wrong or misconstrued by U.S. officials.

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