- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

A Pakistani woman suspected of aiding al Qaeda operatives in a plot to blow up Baltimore gas stations is still at large, FBI officials said yesterday.

Federal agents said they are looking for Aafia Siddiqui, 31, because she might have helped an al Qaeda member do reconnaissance on the gas stations. Mrs. Siddiqui is the first woman to be targeted by the FBI for possible involvement with the terrorist group led by Osama bin Laden.

Information about Mrs. Siddiqui’s reported involvementwith al Qaeda appeared this week in a Newsweek magazine cover story. Though the story stated Mrs. Siddiqui was apprehended in Pakistan, an FBI spokesman yesterday contradicted the account.

“I’m not aware of her being detained at this time,” Barry Maddox of the FBI’s Baltimore field office told The Washington Times.

Also yesterday, law enforcement sources told The Times that al Qaeda’s plans in Baltimore never moved beyond preliminary stages.

“It never got to a point where there was a plan in place,” a source close to the case told The Times yesterday. “They knew enough about the underground tanks, the weak points and where to hit them … but it was more informational than operational.”

The Newsweek article reported that Majid Khan, said to be an al Qaeda operative, stayed in Baltimore with family members who have lived in the city for years and own several gas stations.

While he was there, Mrs. Siddiqui, a U.S. visa holder, reportedly rented a post office box to help Khan establish a new identity in the United States, according to Newsweek.

The article also reports that Khan studied the gas stations’ vulnerability to bombings, then reported the findings to al Qaeda’s director of global operations, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan on March 1.

The source also told The Times the terrorist plot never developed enough to target a specific gas station or series of locations.

The phone number to the only gas station listed under the name Khan has been disconnected.

Mr. Maddox said he could not comment on investigations of the Khan family or about more terrorist plots in Baltimore. The Baltimore city Police Department referred calls to the FBI.

Mrs. Siddiqui’s estranged husband, Dr. Mohammed Amjad Khan, 33, is also listed by the FBI as someone with key information and one who might have been part of the gas-station plot. Newsweek reported that Dr. Khan bought body armor, night-vision goggles and military manuals and was planning to send them to Pakistan, but returned the items after he was interviewed by the FBI.

Dr. Khan, an anesthesiologist, is listed by the FBI as “located,” but a federal law-enforcement source said he was not apprehended in Baltimore. Dr. Khan and Mrs. Siddiqui lived for several years in Boston.

Mrs. Siddiqui is a 1994 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wrote a doctoral thesis for Brandeis University in 2001, according to the Associated Press. She has three children, reportedly 9 months, 3 years and 6 years old.

She has been reported as helping al Qaeda suspect Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a 27-year-old Saudi who authorities believe is trained in terrorism.

NBC News reported Mrs. Siddiqui was arrested April 22 on suspicion of arranging money transfers for al Qaeda. The FBI would neither confirm nor deny the report.

The Associated Press reported that Mrs. Siddiqui’s mother, Ismat, 60, said her daughter disappeared in late March. Ismat Siddiqui said Dr. Khan was an Islamic extremist.

Mrs. Siddiqui, if she were apprehended in Pakistan, would be one of more than 440 al Qaeda suspects arrested there in the past 19 months, 346 of whom have been handed over to the United States, according to the Associated Press.

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