Two law enforcement officials tell CNN that investigators believe the hostage taker at a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue may have been motivated by a desire to free Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year sentence at a federal prison in Texas after being convicted of trying to kill Americans overseas.
The sources tell CNN that assessment is based on both discussions with the suspect and audio heard on the synagogue’s livestream.
More on Siddiqui: In 2010, Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison by a New York federal judge following a 14-day trial. A jury found her guilty of the attempted murder of U.S. nationals and government employees, as well as assault against U.S. officers and employees.
According to a federal indictment, Siddiqui – a Pakistani scientist who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and obtained a doctorate from Brandeis University – was taken into custody for questioning by the Afghan National Police in 2008, who said they found handwritten notes referring to potential targets of a “mass casualty attack.”
When a group of Americans attempted to speak to her, prosecutors said she was able to grab a US soldier’s rifle and open fire on the interrogation team, although no one was hit by the gunfire. At trial, one of the men in the room testified she was “a vision of hatred,” according to court records.
At sentencing, the judge found that a terrorism enhancement applied to her crimes, citing statements she had made that the judge concluded demonstrated her actions and intent to retaliate against the United States government, including “I hate Americans” and “Death to America.”
Siddiqui’s defense argued she was incompetent to stand trial, but Siddiqui clashed repeatedly with her lawyers, telling the judge at sentencing, “If anybody thinks that it is my paranoia or whatever, I’m not paranoid. I’m not mentally sick. I do not agree with that.” She also stated her belief that Israel “masterminded 9/11.”
Her conviction has been the subject of regular protests in the US and overseas. Frequent demonstrations have been organized by the Aafia Foundation, a group named for her. That group has claimed that she was assaulted in prison last year. Her family has said in interviews with CNN that she is not a terrorist. CNN has reached out to lawyers for Siddiqui for reaction to the hostage situation.
During a deadly hostage crisis in Algeria in 2013, a spokesperson for a militant group offered to release hostages if Siddiqui was released from US prison, along with 1993 World Trade Center Attack mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who has since died in prison.
Siddiqui is currently being held in a medical facility that’s part of a federal prison in Fort Worth, with a release date set for 60 years from now.