A man took four Jewish people hostage Saturday at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleywille, Texas, demanding that convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui be released from a federal prison in Texas. Siddiqui's allies include mainstream Muslim groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The hours-long hostage situation ended Saturday night with the hostages unharmed and the suspect dead, according to authorities. The hostage-taker, identified as British national Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was heard saying he wanted Siddiqui freed—a cause Muslim groups and activists alike rallied behind.
Siddiqui was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison for attempting to shoot and kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan, and she's been dubbed in counterterrorism circles as "Lady Al-Qaeda," according to Fox News.
Inside an interview room at an Afghan police compound, authorities say Siddiqui stole an M4 rifle from a US Army officer and shot at members of the US team assigned to interrogate her while she was in detainment.
Saddaqui had been arrested in Afghanistan over an alleged Al-Qaeda "mass casualty attack" plot in the US and other countries. She was reportedly found with documents showing how to make dirty bombs, chemical weapons, and how to weaponize the Ebola virus. She had sodium cyanide on her, authorities said.
According to Fox News: "She is also alleged to have ties to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, considered the main architect for 9/11. She reportedly worked as a courier for him and was briefly married to his nephew, Ammar al-Baluchi, a Guantánamo Bay prisoner accused of sending money to the 9/11 hijackers."
During her trial in 2010, Siddiqui allegedly demanded that Jews be excluded from the jury, stating :"If they have a Zionist or Israeli background...they are all mad at me," according to the New York Daily News.
"I have a feeling everyone here is them - subject to genetic testing....They should be excluded if you want to be fair," she reportedly told the Manhattan federal judge. "I'm boycotting the trial...there are too many injustices," she added.
Despite the guilty verdict, advocates are claiming that Siddiqui was wrongly accused and convicted. In a statement, CAIR's National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in response to the Texas synagogue standoff:
"We strongly condemn the hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. This latest antisemitic attack at a house of worship is an unacceptable act of evil. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly and safely free the hostages. No cause can justify or excuse this crime. We are in contact with local community leaders to learn more and provide any assistance that we can."
This same group has advocated for the release of Siddiqui on numerous occasions in recent months, stating that she is being "unjustly held" in prison.
Just last month, CAIR’s Dallas-Fort-Worth chapter held an event called "In Pursuit of Freedom" at the East Plano Islamic Center in Plano, Texas, claiming Siddiqui had been "kidnapped, ripped apart from her children, shot at, renditioned to the U.S." and serving a sentence "for a crime she did not commit."
On Nov. 18, the CAIR chapter held an online fundraiser for Siddiqui's defense team, Fox News reported. Days earlier, multiple Muslim advocacy groups, including CAIR, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Islamic Circle of North America Council for Social Justice (ICNA-CSJ), and the Muslim American Society PACE, held a "Free Dr. Aafia Advocacy Day" in Washington, where organizers met with congressional offices and lobbied for Siddiqui's release.
Also in mid-November, the Texas chapter of CAIR and former Women's March leader Linda Sarsour hosted an "injustice"-focused Facebook live discussion with Siddiqui's attorney about "the campaign to free" Siddiqui.
A group called the Justice for Aafia Coalition (JFAC) was formed in 2010, advocating for the release of Siddiqui. The group's Facebook page states that "The hidden side of this story is the fact that Aafia had been missing since 2003 and claims that she was kidnapped with her three children by the Pakistani intelligence services, transferred to US custody and held in a series of secret prisons away from her children for five years during which time she was repeatedly raped, tortured and abused. Two of her children remain missing to this day."
"Aafia's trial was also flawed in that there was no evidence of any gun residue from the rifle she is alleged to have shot, no trace of her fingerprints on the rifle, no bullet shells found in the room or bullet holes in the wall. The testimonies of the soldiers conflicted with each other and with their own earlier statements," the group continued in its Facebook statement.
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