(AFP) – Aug 13, 2008
KABUL (AFP) — The US military in Afghanistan Wednesday rejected claims that Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, arrested last month, had been in US military detention during the five years she was missing.
Siddiqui, 36, was arrested in the central town of Ghazni on July 17 by Afghan police who said they believed she had been planning a suicide attack.
She has been described by US officials as a "treasure trove" of information on Al-Qaeda.
Her arrest was the first time in five years she had been seen publicly and her family and lawyers allege she had been held captive since disappearing in Pakistan in 2003 -- possibly in a secret US or allied prison.
The US military based at Bagram, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Kabul, said Siddiqui had only been to the base for military treatment for gunshot wounds after her arrest, and not before that.
"She has never been held in US military custody," spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Rumi Nielson-Green told AFP.
The Pakistani scientist had been under FBI guard at Bagram hospital from July 18 to August 4, after which she was flown to the United States, where she is standing trial, Nielson-Green said.
She was arrested in Ghazni with a young boy, reportedly one of her sons, by Afghan police who said she had been behaving suspiciously.
Afghan authorities called in US forces who sent two officers with an FBI agent the following day to question her, Nielson-Green said, explaining the circumstances in which Siddiqui was wounded.
They were taken into a room divided by a curtain behind which Siddiqui was sitting, she said.
"They sat down and began talking to Afghan officials not realising she was there, unrestrained. One of the officers put a rifle down, she picked it up and pointed it..."
"The interpreter lunged at her, she fired off some rounds. A warrant officer took a sidearm and returned fire and shot her in the abdomen," she said.
Siddiqui is facing charges of attempting to murder the Americans. Her lawyers allege the incident was invented as a pretext to bring her to US territory. She was on a 2004 US list of suspects linked to Al-Qaeda.
Nielson-Green said two rounds were fired at Siddiqui and she was "struck at least once."
She was treated at Bagram and discharged when she was "ambulatory and, were she a soldier with like condition, would have been returned to limited duty," the spokeswoman said.
Nielson-Green rejected claims by some human rights activists that Siddiqui was Bagram's "prisoner 650," a solitary woman inmate at the base a few years ago whom other detainees claim to have heard screaming.
"The allegation that she is the same woman who was in our custody in 2003-2005 is unfounded. That woman's name and physical description are different from Ms. Siddiqui's," the spokeswoman said.
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