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September 28, 2010
British aid worker kidnapped by Taliban in attempt to free Aafia Siddiqui
Last Thursday Pakistani doctor Aafi Siddiqui was sentenced by a New York court to 86 years in prison. The American educated neuroscientist had been convicted in March of attempting to murder U.S. soldiers while in custody in Afghanistan. During her trial Siddiqui's angry outbursts and loud talk of Jewish conspiracy theories often forced her removal from the court room.
Siddiqui has been linked to al-Qaidi and was said to be married to Ammar al Baluchi who is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the accused 9/11 mastermind (both of whom are awaiting trail at Guantanamo Bay). At the time of her arrest Siddiqui was carrying information on bomb making and had detailed information on a number of potential targets in America.
The Guardian reports that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said "We are all united, and we want the daughter of the nation to come back to Pakistan." The government is said to have spent approximately $2 million dollars on Siddiqui's lawyers during the trial and Gilani said he was looking into the possibility of negotiating an extradition treaty with the U.S. in hopes of securing an early release.
Siddiqui supporter Yvonne Ridley said that the doctor's friends and fellow Pakistanis would maintain pressure through protests and acts of civil disobedience. Ridley said "It will involve blocking nato supply lines into Alghanistan" and she remarked that "This is not going to go away."
According to the Daily Star, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a news conference "We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to bring her back." Malik vowed to use all legal and political means available to secure Siddiqui's return to her native Pakistan. It was also reported that.
Thousands of people staged protest rallies across the country on Friday demanding her release. The protestors chanted anti-US slogans and burned flags and effigies of President Barack Obama.
The UK Daily Mail reports that on Sunday morning a British aid worker in Afghanistan was stopped with her two-vehicle convoy as they were traveling to Jalalabad near the Pakistan border and was kidnapped after shots were exchanged between local police and the captors.
It is believed that the doctor worked for a U.S. charity, Development Alternatives International (DAI), which implements agricultural projects on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The abduction comes just a matter of weeks after an ambush in which eight foreign aid workers (including British doctor Karen Woo) were murdered by suspected Taliban fighters in the mountains near Nuristan.
Initially the Taliban has denied responsibility for the kidnapping, however on Monday Mohammed Osman claimed he had been involved in the abduction.
Osman told the Afghan Islamic Press: ‘We are lucky that we abducted this British woman so soon after the ruthless ruling by an American court on Aafia Siddiqui. We will demand the release of Siddiqui in exchange for her.'
Relations between the United States and Pakistan are continuing to deteriorate and anti-American sentiment is fever pitch. Despite Barack Obama's "Muslim outreach" only 17% of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the American government. It would appear as though the Nobel Peace Prize winning president is far less trusted than his predecessor was. Stay tuned.