Pakistani woman in US court for assault on troops
(Recasts with U.S. hearing, changes dateline from KARACHI)
By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK, Aug 5 (Reuters) - A Pakistani woman accused of grabbing a U.S. soldier's rifle and trying to shoot an Army captain while in custody in Afghanistan will face a U.S. judge in New York on Tuesday on attempted murder charges.
Pakistan's ambassador to Washington sought consular access to Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained neuroscientist suspected of links to al Qaeda, after she was brought to the United States on Monday.
Accounts of her arrest and the shooting incident differed between U.S. prosecutors and Afghan police.
Siddiqui, 36, was arrested outside the governor's office in Afghanistan's Ghazni province on July 17 after police searched her handbag and found documents on making explosives, excerpts from the book "Anarchist's Arsenal" and descriptions of New York City landmarks, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
While detained in a meeting room, Siddiqui grabbed the M-4 assault rifle from a U.S. Army warrant officer who had placed the weapon on the floor not knowing she was being held there, the statement said. Two FBI agents were also in the room.
Siddiqui fired at least twice at the captain but the shots missed as a military interpreter lunged at her. The warrant officer then shot her with his pistol, the statement said.
"Despite being shot, Siddiqui struggled with the officers when they tried to subdue her; she struck and kicked them while shouting in English that she wanted to kill Americans," it said, adding she then lost consciousness and was given medical treatment.
The New York Times said Siddiqui had links to at least two of 14 suspected high-level al Qaeda members held at a prison camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The story of her arrest is one of the strangest since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda in 2001.
The ambassador of Pakistan, an ally to the United States in the "war on terror" declared by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks, made the request for consular access on Monday, Pakistan's state-run news agency said.
Afghan police in Ghazni told a different story. They said officers searched Siddiqui after reports of her suspicious behavior and found maps of Ghazni, including one of the governor's house, and arrested her along with a teenage boy.
U.S. troops requested the woman be handed over to them but the police refused, a senior Ghazni police officer said.
U.S. soldiers then disarmed the Afghan police, at which point Siddiqui approached the Americans complaining of mistreatment by the police, the officer said.
The U.S. troops, the officer said, "thinking that she had explosives and would attack them as a suicide bomber, shot her and took her." The boy remained in police custody.
Siddiqui and her three children disappeared from her parents' home in the port city of Karachi in 2003 and Pakistani human rights groups said they believed she had been held at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials believe Siddiqui was in Pakistan until her arrest in neighboring Afghanistan, the New York Times said.
Family members said Siddiqui was raped and tortured at Bagram, although they did not say how they knew this.
"For a long time, my family and I have kept our silence because we knew she was innocent and also based on threats of severe consequences if we spoke," Siddiqui's sister Fauzia told reporters in Karachi.
She said her sister would not receive a fair trial.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded the Pakistani government intervene and secure her release.
"Dr. Aafia's case is a reminder of the grave injustice done to God knows how many Pakistanis in U.S. detention facilities in Bagram in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, who have been listed as missing," it said in a statement. (Additional reporting by Aftab Borka and Imtiaz Shah in Karachi and Sher Ahmad in Ghazni; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Jon Hemming; Editing by Paul Tait and John O'Callaghan)
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