Aafia Siddiqui, the Lady Al Qaeda, is mysteriously very important to many militant groups. In fact, two years ago officials in Pakistan proposed a swap between her and Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with the United States. President Barack Obama rejected the offer, and the convicted attempted murderess, who attempted to kill Americans in Afghanistan, would remain in prison. She was educated at M.I.T. and Brandeis, but was arrested in 2008 in Afghanistan while carrying sodium cyanide, documents describing how to create chemical weapons and how to weaponize Ebola. When she was questioned by the FBI, she swiftly grabbed a weapon on the interrogation table and fired upon them. For some reason, she is a huge bargaining chip for Islamist militants who would trade a number of American and European prisoners for her. In fact, James Foley’s life might have been spared had Siddiqui been released. One entity in the Defense Department has developed possible options for trading Siddiqui, but there is obvious debate on the matter. The US doesn’t like to concede to terrorists or pay ransoms. Some terrorism experts believe that more Americans would be captured if the US gave in to these demands.
Aafia Siddiqui is serving 86 years in prison for the attempted murder and assault of US nationals and US officers and employees in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, there is a group of militants called the Aafia Siddiqui Brigade which has attacked government facilities to avenge what they believe was an unfair and wrongful arrest. The Taliban demanded her freedom in exchange for British aid worker Linda Norgrove, while Ayman al-Zawahiri called for her exchange for Warren Weinstein. Read more about Siddiqui’s family, why the scientist is so valuable and what the US government is doing about it at Foreign Policy.