Who started Free Lady Al Qaeda movement? Social media campaign led to Texas synagogue attack

Who started Free Lady Al Qaeda movement? Social media campaign led to Texas synagogue attack
There was a sudden spike in pro-Aafia Siddiqui (R) activity on Twitter five months before the Texas synagogue attack (Twitter and FBI via Getty Images)

Researchers have found that calls for Pakistani terrorist Lady Al Qaeda aka Aafia Siddiqui, to be released spiked considerably on Twitter, days before the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue hostage attack in Texas. As per reports, the sudden spike in Twitter activity advocating Siddiqui's release comes across as a coordinated attempt promoted by a US-based non-profit organization and self-identified Pakistani Twitter accounts.

Last month, British-born Malik Faisal Akram flew to New York from the UK and then left for Texas, where he brandished a pistol. Then he headed to the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, where he took four people hostage and demanded Siddiqui's release from prison. Before the hostages escaped and law enforcement killed him, he demanded Siddiqui's release from custody in Fort Worth, where she's serving an 86-year sentence for shooting at Americans in Afghanistan.


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"Siddiqui is serving an 86-year sentence for shooting at U.S. service members in Afghanistan. She was being arrested in connection with an alleged Al Qaeda plot when she grabbed a soldier's M4 assault rifle and opened fire on her interrogators. She was a bad shot and none were hurt," reports Daily Mail.

The Sudden Massive Spike in Twitter Activity for 'Free Aafa Movement' Preceded Attack on Congregation Beth Israel report mentions, "What caused British national Malik Akram to travel to Texas earlier this month and take hostages in a synagogue with the demand of releasing his “sister” – a.k.a., the jailed Pakistani terrorist Aafia Siddiqui? At first glance, it seemed an unlikely cause to champion, as Siddiqui had been imprisoned for over a decade and the solidarity campaign on her behalf had been largely dormant for years. As President Biden himself noted after the attack, there are lingering questions as to "why [Akram] targeted a synagogue, and why he insisted on the release of someone who has been in prison for over 10 years?" While the now-deceased attacker’s motives remain obscure, his actions came against the backdrop of a sudden spike in social media activity as part of a coordinated campaign to 'Free Aafia.' The Network Contagion Research Institute used open-source data from social media platforms to analyze the dynamics of how and by whom the campaign was reactivated. This analysis revealed that the cause Akram identified as a key motive for his attack had been promoted by a U.S.-based non-profit organization and self-identified Pakistani Twitter accounts in the months before the attack."


The key findings of the report state, "Advocacy for Siddiqui's release has been quiet in recent years but reemerged in late 2021: 'Aafia' was mentioned on Twitter fewer than 20 times per day in 2021 until late August when 'Aafia' related tweets spiked, eclipsing several thousand daily. The bulk of the chatter appears to have been driven by a network of Pakistani Twitter accounts, some of which displayed bot-like activity: The 20 most prolific authors amplifying Aafia-related hashtags self-identified as Pakistani and several of them disseminated social content featuring antisemitic tropes. In September of 2021, in response to an alleged prison assault on Siddiqui, the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Texas DFW &Austin chapter (CAIR-Texas) launched a formal campaign advocating for Siddiqui’s freedom via real-world and virtual events, as well as an online '#FreeAafia' campaign. CAIR-Texas promoted the central node of the self-identified Pakistani network to promote Aafia-related material, and the most shared URL by the predominantly self-identified Pakistani network was a link to CAIR-Texas' website promoting the Aafia campaign."

Aafia Siddiqui (FBI/Getty Images)


The research was conducted by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) and the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI). Researchers said that there was a sudden increase in pro-Aafia tweets five months before the attack. The report mentioned that the campaign included "bot-like activity and a network of influencers amplifying anti-Semitic content." As per the data, "Aafia was mentioned on Twitter fewer than 20 times per day in 2021 until late August when Aafia-related tweets spiked, eclipsing several thousand daily."

"The well-coordinated online and offline solidarity campaign for Aafia Siddiqui, a raving anti-Semite herself, indulged in anti-Semitic tropes and predictably inflamed supporters. While one can never determine a direct cause and effect, tragically, one of those radicalized supporters flew all the way from England to Texas to visit terror on an innocent Jewish community during Shabbat services," lan Carr, former US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and member of CAM's advisory council told Fox News.

While the researchers didn't dig up any direct evidence linking the Twitter campaign to Akram's motivations, the correlation is concerning and should be worth digging into. "The information that we have in this report is absolutely worthwhile for the investigating agencies to take notice of. The investigative agencies... really do have to run this sort of information down to help identify the motivation," said Jack Donohue, former NYPD Chief of Strategic Initiatives and co-author of the report.

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