“Lady al Qaeda” Aafia Siddiqui, from her wanted poster.
On Thursday, South Waziristan Taliban leader Waliur Rehman Mehsud said he ordered the kidnapping of two Swiss citizens in Baluchistan province, and said he would release the Swiss couple if the US freed Aafia Siddiqui. From The Associated Press:
He said his group ordered the kidnapping in order to gain freedom for Aafia Siddiqui, a US-educated mother of three who is serving 86 years in an American jail for trying to kill US officials in Afghanistan.
Rehman said the Swiss have not been tortured.
But he said that if Siddiqui is not freed, a Taliban court will decide the fate of the pair.
Siddiqui, who is known as “Lady al Qaeda,” was one of the most wanted women in the world prior to her capture in 2008. She was involved in planning al Qaeda attacks in the US. For more on Siddiqui, see LWJ report, ‘Lady al Qaeda’ sentenced to 86 years in prison.
The Pakistani Taliban is not the first group to call for Siddiqui’s release. Siddiqui has been a cause celebre in Pakistan for Islamist terror groups, Islamist and secular political parties, and the Pakistani government.
In September 2010, Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain held a rally in Karachi that called for the release of Siddiqui. Hussain said the charges against Siddiqui “are false,” according to The Express Tribune. The rally drew over 300,000 people.
In December 2010, top al Qaeda ideologue Abu Yahya al Libi released a propaganda tape calling on Muslims to wage jihad to avenge Aafia Siddiqui. The tape was entitled “Aafia Siddiqui…Captivity and Oppression, So Where Are the Heroes?” See LWJ report, Analysis: ‘Lady al Qaeda’ in propaganda.
In February 2011, the Pakistani government attempted to work a deal with the US to exchange CIA contractor Raymond Davis for Siddiqui. Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani has referred to Siddiqui as a “daughter of the nation,” The New York Times reported. The Pakistani government ultimately freed Davis after a month of intense US diplomatic pressure.