Aafia Siddiqui’s son in Afghan custody
* US authorities say photos, DNA tests strongly suggest boy ‘captured’ with Siddiqui is her son
* Siddiqui to petition court to have Ahmed placed in her brother’s custody in Texas
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: US authorities have confirmed that the 11-year old boy they claim to have captured with Dr Aafia Siddiqui in Kabul is her son Ahmed.
According to a report in the Washington Post, in a letter to Siddiqui’s family, US authorities said that photos and DNA tests strongly suggest that the youngster in Afghan custody is Siddiqui’s son Ahmed. The boy is claimed to have been detained on July 18 when Afghan police arrested Siddiqui near a government compound in Ghazni. Siddiqui and her three children disappeared in 2003 in Karachi. She had set out from her mother’s home on her way to the airport to take a flight to Islamabad, but she never arrived. Inexplicably, her family did not lodge a missing person report with the police. She is now in a federal prison in New York, charged with attempted murder.
The newspaper report quotes Siddiqui’s lawyers and family members as questioning the US government’s account that Siddiqui had resurfaced five years after disappearing with her three young children in Pakistan. Siddiqui’s family contends that she and her children were imprisoned during at least some of that time at a secret site, possibly by Afghan or Pakistani officials working with the CIA. Her two younger children, who are also US citizens and were 6 months and 5 years old when they disappeared, are still unaccounted for. “Something is really dirty here. Everything about the government’s story smells,” according to Elizabeth Fink, Siddiqui’s attorney, who said her client was psychologically traumatised over an extended period of time. “Whatever happened to this woman is terrible, and it’s incumbent on us to find out what it was.” Siddiqui’s attorneys said they spoke with her after she was moved to New York earlier this month.
Siddiqui will petition a federal court to have Ahmed placed in the custody of her brother in Texas, Fink said. Fink and Elaine Whitfield Sharp, a lawyer for the Siddiqui family, said Aafia Siddiqui bears little resemblance to the woman in 2002 family photographs. Her nose has been broken, her lips and skin are deeply chapped, her face has a deathly pallor, and she is only periodically lucid, they said.
The Washington Post report says the FBI had spent years seeking information on Siddiqui, who officials feared was an Al Qaeda operative with knowledge of biological weapons. CIA spokesman George Little told the newspaper, “As the Department of Justice has made clear, Siddiqui was not in US custody before she was detained on July 17, 2008. Any suggestion that the CIA would imprison her children is wrong and offensive. Had we known where Siddiqui was prior to her capture, we would have shared that information with our partners in this country and overseas. She was a fugitive from American justice.” US officials are said to have dubbed her as Al Qaeda’s “Mata Hari” and admitted that they began watching her as a possible terrorism suspect in 2001 when she lived in Boston with her husband. Soon after Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was captured in 2003, Siddiqui and her three children vanished from Karachi.
Ismail Jahangir, a spokesman for the governor of Ghazni province said on Monday, according to the Post, that the Afghan Interior Ministry took the boy, now found to be Siddiqui’s son, into custody the same day Siddiqui was arrested. Jahangir said the governor’s office was not aware of what happened to the boy after he was handed over to the Interior Ministry. An Interior Ministry official in Kabul said Ahmed was held by the ministry for a day, then taken into custody by the Afghan National Security Directorate, an intelligence agency. US agents said the boy initially told them he was an orphan.