June 27, 2022

Pak under terror scrutiny again after hostage drama in Texas to release jailed scientist | India News – Times of India

WASHINGTON: Pakistan is again under scrutiny for its global terrorism footprint after an FBI team shot dead a man who took hostages in a Texas synagogue on Saturday demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani-American neuro-scientist serving a 86-year sentence on terrorism-related charges. Islamabad has repeatedly demanded Washington free Siddiqui, a cause celebre in Pakistan and its extremist circles.
The latest episode in US-Pakistan terrorism wrangles began on Saturday morning when a man who identified himself as Mohammed Siddiqui took four Jewish hostages in a synagogue in Colleyville in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, demanding authorities free his “sister” Aafia Siddiqui, who is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center 22 miles away in Carswell.
During a 12-hour stand-off, a lawyer for Aafia Siddiqui’s family told the media that the perpetrator was not Siddiqui’s brother and “she does not want any violence perpetrated against any human being, especially in her name.” The hostage taker claimed to be armed with bombs.
“It obviously has nothing to do with Dr Siddiqui or her family. Whoever the assailant is, we want him to know that his actions are condemned by Dr Siddiqui and her family, We implore you to immediately release the hostages and turn yourself in,” the lawyer, Marwa Elbially, told CNN by phone.
Late in the evening, an FBI hostage rescue team that had flown in from the Bureau’s headquarters in Quantico stormed the synagogue after two of the hostages broke free and fled. Grainy video footage on social media showed two hostages bolting from the synagogue door, chased by the perpetrator, who quickly withdraws inside after spotting armed SWAT teams outside. Local media said an explosion and gun shots were heard, and shortly thereafter authorities announced all hostages were free and safe and the hostage taker was dead.
In a news conference at the end of the stand-off, the local police chief and theFBI Special Agent in Charge declined to share more information about the identify of the hostage taker, but said an investigation with “global reach” is underway.
Islamabad has long sought the release of Aafia Siddiqui, whose initiation into extremist circles while she pursued a masters and PhD in Boston, her peregrinations to and from Pakistan, her ties to Al Qaeda, and her subsequent capture and conviction, constitutes one of the more murky chapters in the US war on terror. Dubbed “Lady Al Qaeda” by sections of the media for her ties with the group, she is regarded as a “daughter of the nation” by sections of the Pakistan establishment who have campaigned for her release from jail.
Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Imran Khan was reported to have deputed his Parliamentary Affairs advisor Babar Awan to oversee efforts to secure Siddiqui’s release, an effort that involved petitioning US President Joe Biden after meeting with the convict’s family members. While the effort has met with stony silence from Washington, the Pakistani establishment in the past floated the idea of a prisoner-swap, including at one time offering to exchange CIA contractor Raymond Davis for Aafia Siddiqui, a proposal the Obama administration rejected.
US-Pakistan ties have deteriorated precipitously in the decade since with the current President Joe Biden, following his predecessors Donald Trump and Barack Obama in largely ignoring Islamabad, a task that has become easier following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. A piqued Islamabad, which has complained that Biden has not even bothered to phone Imran Khan since he came to office, recently downgraded ties with Washington, identifying US in a “rest of the world” category in a national security document discussing ties with other countries.
Although the US has a thriving and well-regarded Pakistani-American community of nearly half-million, suspicion of Pakistanis runs deep in the US security establishment on account of the country’s radicalisation. Several major terrorist attacks on the US homeland — including 9/11, the Times Square bombing effort, and the San Bernardino massacre that killed 14 people — were perpetrated by Pakistani or Pakistan-linked terrorists.

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