One of the demands made by kidnappers who killed US journalist James Foley was the release of a woman once named among America’s seven most wanted terrorists.
In the final email the Islamic State militant group sent to Mr Foley’s parents, the jihadists claimed they offered prisoner exchanges for the journalist’s freedom. The one name mentioned in the email was that of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
The US-educated, Pakistani-born scientist was arrested in the street in Afghanistan’s Ghanzi province in 2008.
When local police searched her handbag they found she was carrying handwritten documents referring to a “mass casualty attack” as well as a toxic substance called sodium cyanide, US prosecutors said.
The mother of three’s notes listed locations such as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge, according to the FBI.
There was also information on how to create a dirty bomb, destroy reconnaissance drones and use underwater bombs, and excerpts from the book “Anarchist’s Arsenal”, according to US prosecutors.
Upon her arrest, Siddiqui was taken by local police to a compound but, left unsecured behind a curtain, she managed to grab an M4 rifle and fire at the US team who had come to interview her, yelling “death to America”, her trial heard.
She did not hit anyone, but Siddiqui herself was shot.
The 42-year-old was flown to the US and following her two-week trial in 2010, she was sentenced to 86 years in a Texas jail for trying to kill American servicemen.
No terrorism charges were filed, but prosecutors painted her as a potentially dangerous terrorist.
Siddiqui’s lawyers – three of whom were paid by the Pakistani government – argued she had shot at the US officials in a panic and she was mentally ill.
She appeared in a wheelchair, looking frail, and frequently disrupted the proceedings with outbursts at her own lawyers, the jury and witnesses.
Dubbed “al Qaeda Mom” and “Lady Qaeda” by US tabloids, Siddiqui was born in Karachi, Pakistan, but moved to America in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
She trained as a neuroscientist at prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University.
US authorities claim she returned to Pakistan in 2003 after marrying a relative of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
But her disappearance for the next five years is unexplained and has caught the attention of human rights groups.
One theory is that she was detained by America after being named by Mohammed during interrogation. Her lawyers had claimed she had been held in secret US detention.
However, in 2004 US attorney general John Ashcroft listed her among the seven most wanted al Qaeda fugitives.
Her eventual detention, trial and sentencing prompted mass protests across Pakistan.
Activists poured on to the streets shouting “death to America” and burning effigies of President Barack Obama when she was sentenced.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan led one rally in Lahore, condemning her jailing as “unethical and inhuman”.