ISLAMABAD, May 28: An interior ministry spokesman on Friday confirmed that Dr Aafia Siddiqui, allegedly involved in terrorist activities, had been arrested in 2003 from Karachi and handed over to the US authorities.

Dr Aafia, having dual Pakistani-American nationalities, holds a doctorate in neurological sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The spokesman told this correspondent that Dr Aafia had been handed over to the US because she had "kept her US nationality".

Otherwise, the spokesman said, no Pakistani involved in any activity had so far been handed over to the US by the present government. An FBI report showed Dr Aafia, 32, to be one of the seven dangerous terrorists who planned a new attack on the US.

The interior ministry spokesman said Dr Aafia was also wanted in Pakistan because of the country being one of the major coalition partners of the US in the war against terrorism.

The FBI report claimed Dr Aafia to be still in Pakistan but the interior ministry spokesman said that she was in the US custody. Another interior ministry official said Pakistani intelligence agencies had interrogated her but her links with Al Qaeda could not be established.

He said in the US, Dr Aafia was accused of delivering anti-US speeches and "preaching jihad". Later, she was declared a "dangerous terrorist" by the FBI. The same official confirmed that Dr Aafia had visited Pakistan in 2003 and had spent a few days in Islamabad. She is stated to be an award winning student of the MIT.

A statement issued by Dr Aafia's father, published in the press during March 2004, said she had studied in the MIT for 10 years and obtained her PhD and returned to Pakistan in 2002.

He said that she had again gone to the US and returned to the country in February 2003 after renting a post office box in her name in Maryland. He alleged that Dr Aafia had been kidnapped in Karachi along with her three children aged between three-and-a-half months to seven years from March 25 to March 31, 2003.

Dr Aafia's father had ridiculed the FBI's allegations, saying that the agency had all of a sudden declared her to be an Al Qaeda leader besides accusing her of supporting other "operatives of this group" entering the US.

The FBI claimed that she had hired the post office box for one Majid Khan, an alleged member of Al Qaeda, residing in Baltimore.

In 2003, Dr Fawzia, Dr Aafia's elder sister along with the minister for religious affairs Ijazul Haq had called on interior minister Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat in Islamabad to know the whereabouts of her sister.

On this occasion, the interior minister was quoted by her father as saying: "According to my information, Dr Aafia has already been released and Dr Fawzia should wait for her sister's call at home."



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