NEW YORK – A Pakistani woman believed to have close ties to Al Qaeda who was captured with a list of potential U.S. landmarks for a “mass casualty attack” skipped court Thursday, apparently to avoid being strip-searched, FOX News has learned.
Aafia Siddiqui, a 36-year-old graduate of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, was scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court Thursday morning to face attempted murder and other charges. She was indicted on Tuesday.
But Siddiqui's defense attorney Elizabeth Fink said she thinks her client didn't show up for the hearing because she didn't want to undergo the strip-search required when a suspect leaves jail.
Although there was no arraignment on Thursday, the judge said the proceedings will continue with or without Siddiqui in the courtroom.
The judge also ordered medical and physical competency evaluations of Siddiqui, to be completed before her rescheduled arraignment, scheduled for later this month.
When she was detained in Afghanistan, authorities discovered the handwritten notes and the lists of New York City sights, which included the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Wall Street, prosecutors said in the indictment.
The indictment said Siddiqui's writings referred to a widescale attack and "the construction of dirty bombs, chemical and biological weapons and other explosives" and "also discussed the mortality rates associated with certain of these weapons."
A federal animal disease research center in Long Island Sound called Plum Island was also mentioned in the list of apparent targets, according to prosecutors.
Other documents "referred to specific 'cells' and 'attacks' by certain 'cells' ... and discussed recruitment and training," the indictment said.
Her Thursday morning arraignment will be held in Manhattan federal court.
In addition to attempted murder, Siddiqui is charged with armed assault and discharging a firearm during a violent crime. She hasn't been accused of plotting attacks on monuments. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
Siddiqui, who has a biology degree from MIT, was to be arraigned Wednesday on charges that she tried to assault and kill Army officers and FBI agents during an interrogation following her detention in July.
The indictment alleges she picked up a soldier's rifle, announced her "desire to kill Americans" and fired the rifle but missed. She was wounded by return fire.
Fink declined Tuesday to comment on the indictment. Her client previously denied the charges.
Authorities had earlier identified Siddiqui as an Al Qaeda associate who may have helped potential terrorists enter the United States before vanishing in Pakistan in 2003. Her supporters maintain she was kidnapped and held in U.S. custody before mysteriously surfacing this summer in Afghanistan.
The indictment contains no charges of terrorism. A government official briefed on the case has told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the landmarks were a "wish list" of potential targets but that there was no evidence of a credible plot.
FOX News' Jonathan Wachtel, Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.