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Trial opens in plot to kill U.S. officials in Afghanistan

An accused al-Qaida supporter was removed from the courtroom yesterday, the first day of her trial on attempted-murder charges, after an outburst against the prosecution's first witness.

Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist, is charged with trying to kill U.S. military officers and FBI agents in an Afghanistan police station after grabbing a U.S. soldier's rifle.

Her outburst came less than two hours after her trial began in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. U.S. Army Capt. Robert Snyder had just testified that handwritten documents found in Siddiqui's purse included targets for a mass casualty attack, including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.

"I was never planning a bombing! You're lying!" Siddiqui yelled as she was rushed out of court. She said she never plotted against landmarks and had been held in a secret prison.

With Siddiqui gone, Snyder described the July 18, 2008, confrontation between her and a room filled with Afghan and U.S. military and law enforcement officials.

Snyder said he was seated in a 300-square-foot room when he looked toward a curtain and saw a woman kneeling on a bed and pointing a U.S.-issued rifle at him.

"I could see the inner portion of the barrel, which indicated to me it was pointing straight at my head," he said.

Snyder said he leaped out of the way when Siddiqui hesitated for a second as she attempted to rest the rifle on her shoulder. He said he realized she might not understand how to operate the rifle.

He said he jumped from his seat, heard the rifle go off more than once and rushed for the door, the last to escape the room. He said he drew his pistol, returning seconds later to see Siddiqui fighting with an Army officer who had pushed the rifle out of harm's way.

As Snyder joined the effort to subdue her, he said he noticed she was bleeding from what appeared to be a bullet wound to the stomach. She was "pleading for us to kill her rather than just detaining her," Snyder said.

"I responded something to the effect of: 'That's not going to happen,' " he said.

Besides the defendant, no one was seriously injured.

Siddiqui has vehemently denied the charges in courtroom tirades.

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