Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nigerian Terror Attack Suspect: A Life of Privilege and Elite Schools

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nigerian Terror Attack Suspect: A Life of Privilege and Elite Schools

Article excerpt

Nigerian terror attack suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attended a British school in West Africa and then studied in London. He had been estranged from his family before the attack.

As a member of an upper-crust Nigerian family, Umar Farouk

Abdulmutallab received the best schooling, from the elite British

International School in West Africa to the vaunted University College

London.

But the education he wanted was of a different sort: Nigerian

officials say his interest in extremist Islam prompted his father to

warn US authorities. As Mr. Abdulmutallab was being escorted in

handcuffs off the Detroit-bound airliner he attempted to blow up on

Christmas Day, he told US officials that he had sought an extremist

education at an Islamist hotbed in Yemen.

A portrait emerged Sunday of a serious young man who led a

privileged life as the son of a prominent banker, but became

estranged from his family as an adult. Devoutly religious, he was

nicknamed "The pope" for his saintly aura and gave few clues in his

youth that he would turn radical, friends and family said.

"In all the time I taught him, we never had cross words," said

Michael Rimmer, a Briton who taught history at the British

International School in Lome, Togo. "Somewhere along the line, he

must have met some sort of fanatics, and they must have turned his

mind."

Abdulmutallab has been charged with trying to destroy a Northwest

flight on Christmas Day with 278 passengers and 11 crew members on

board. The detonator on his explosive apparently malfunctioned and he

was subdued by other passengers.

Through an official, Abdulmutallab's father "expressed deep shock

and regret over his son's actions."

His family home sits in the city of Funtua, in the heart of

Nigeria's Islamic culture. Religion figured into the family's life:

His father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, who had a successful career in

commercial banking, also joined the board of an Islamic bank -- one

that avoids the kind of interest payments banned by the Koran.

The large house, surrounded by a wall and a metal fence just off the

main road running through the city, stood empty, a common occurrence

for a jet-set family that sought an education abroad for

Abdulmutallab. Family members told The Associated Press they could

not comment but expected the family to issue a statement.

Mutallab was working with the FBI and not expected to grant media

interviews, Information Minister Dora Akunyili said.

The elder Mutallab was "a responsible and respected Nigerian, with a

true Nigerian spirit," she said. He had been estranged from his son

for several months and alerted US officials last month about the

youth's growing hard-line Islamic religious beliefs.

A close neighbor told the Associated Press he believed Abdulmutallab

did not get his extremist ideas from his family or from within

Nigeria.

Basiru Sani Hamza, said Abdulmutallab was a "very religious" and a

"very obedient" to his parents as a boy in the well-to-do banking

family. …

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