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Reported Capture of MIT Alumna Denied by FBI

By Keith J. Winstein


The Federal Bureau of Investigation has denied several reports that it has captured Aafia Siddiqui ’95 in Pakistan. Siddiqui is wanted for questioning by the FBI in connection with its investigation of al-Qaida.

Several newspapers in India and Pakistan have recently reported her capture and interrogation by American officials, citing unnamed sources.

“I don’t know where those reports came from,” said John Iannarelli, a special agent with the FBI’s national press office.

“She is not in custody,” he said, and is “certainly not being interviewed by the FBI at this time. We’re still looking for her.”

A spokesperson for the FBI’s Boston office, which is leading the investigation, said that as far as the FBI is aware, Siddiqui has not been arrested by any other nation either.

Siddiqui has not been charged with a crime, and the FBI’s poster on its Web site stresses that “the FBI has no information indicating [Siddiqui] is connected to specific terrorist activities.”

Siddiqui, The Boston Herald reported March 23, lived in a Mission Hill apartment in Boston until August 2001 and is now suspected by the FBI to be in Pakistan.

She could not be reached for comment.

Siddiqui made national press

Siddiqui has attracted international attention as the first woman to be sought by the FBI in connection with its pursuit of al-Qaida.

Siddiqui reportedly drew the FBI’s attention when she was either named by reputed senior al-Qaida operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, captured by the FBI March 1 in Pakistan -- as CNN reported last night without attribution -- or linked to alleged terrorist Adnan El Shukrijumah, “whose name surfaced among the belongings of” Mohammed -- as The Boston Herald reported, also without attribution.

The FBI purportedly believes Siddiqui may be a “fixer” for al-Qaida, moving money to support terrorist operations, United Press International reported March 29.

Her estranged husband, Boston doctor Mohammad Khan, is also sought for questioning by the FBI.

Siddiqui had august MIT career

As a sophomore at MIT in 1992, Siddiqui received a Carroll L. Wilson Award for her research proposal, “Islamization in Pakistan and its Effects on Women.”

As a junior, Siddiqui received a $1,200 City Days fellowship to help clean up Cambridge elementary school playgrounds.

During her undergraduate career, she lived in McCormick Hall and worked at the MIT libraries.

A year after she graduated, she wrote an article for the MIT Information Systems newsletter about how how to download computer programs using the File Transfer Protocol and the then-emerging World Wide Web.

She subsequently went on to graduate study at Brandeis University and is a co-author of several published biology journal articles and a dissertation, although it is unclear whether she received a doctorate.

She also founded a nonprofit organization, the Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching Inc., with her husband in 1999.

“I’ve got to tell you, if you’re looking for an al-Qaida person, I think you’d pick her, out of 100 people, 99th or something,” said Gerald Ross, her former Boston landlord, to the Associated Press yesterday.