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Missouri man shocked by terror claims of former classmate

Thursday, October 18, 2012 | 7:35 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A former college classmate of a Bangladeshi man accused in a foiled car bomb attack on New York City's Federal Reserve said Thursday the allegations don't square with the peace-talking student he befriended and routinely gave rides home from class.

Jim Dow said he was shocked to learn of 21-year-old Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis' arrest Wednesday during an FBI terror sting in New York, just a few months after Nafis left Southeast Missouri State University after attending only the spring semester. Nafis shared a physics class with Dow.

A law enforcement official, who talked to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, said Nafis is believed to have initially considered targeting President Barack Obama and the New York Stock Exchange before settling on attacking the Federal Reserve. That plot unraveled when Nafis wasn't aware the 1,000-pound bomb he tried to detonate was bogus.

Investigators said Nafis admired Osama bin Laden. He arrived in the U.S. in January on a student visa and attended Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, a 38,000-resident Mississippi River city about 100 miles south of St. Louis.

Remembering Nafis as "a little on the shy side," Dow said Nafis seldom interacted with other students outside of the physics class they took.

"He was actually a pretty good student — he understood the topic pretty well," Dow, 54, told the AP on Thursday.

Nafis, who Dow gave rides home twice a week, never intimated or displayed violent tendencies or thoughts, instead coming across as "real religious," Dow said.

Since Nafis' arrest, "what really shocked me the most was he had specifically spoken to me about true Muslims not believing in violence," said Dow, an Army veteran who's now a junior studying sustainable energy management. "He told me he didn't really believe bin Laden was involved in (the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks) because he said bin Laden was a religious man, and a religious man wouldn't have done something like that.

"I do know he thought really highly of Osama bin Laden, and that he told me he didn't think bin Laden would have done something like that" attack on the Pentagon and New York's twin towers.

Nafis, who gave Dow a copy of the Quran and asked that he read and respect that holy book, "told me things like that Muslims believed that Jesus was a prophet the same as (Islam's) Muhammed. And that he just didn't believe Jesus' words had been passed down correctly, but Muhammed's were," Dow said.

Nafis "never said anything that was angry or mean. He didn't rant or rave or say crazy stuff," Dow said. "I liked him."

When Dow no longer saw Nafis on the 11,700-student campus after the spring semester, he assumed Nafis returned to Bangladesh because "he talked like he was homesick." The university said in a statement Thursday it transferred Nafis' academic records over the summer to an unspecified Brooklyn, N.Y., institution.

Dow said he was listening to a national TV network's news program Wednesday night while working on his computer when he heard a reference to the alleged terror plot targeting New York's Federal Reserve, glanced up and saw a courtroom sketch of the suspect.

"It went through my head that, 'Gee, that looks like Quazi,'" said Dow, whose suspicions were confirmed when the report mentioned Nafis attended Southeast Missouri State, then showed a photograph of him.

"I'm shocked — I don't know what more to say about that," Dow added. "I didn't just meet this kid a couple of times. We talked quite a bit, sir, and this doesn't seem to be in character."

Southeast Missouri State's president, Kenneth Dobbins, wrote in a letter Thursday to the university's faculty, staff and students that the FBI has assured him that no one at the school was in danger and that "Southeast was never a target of terrorism."


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Comments

Collin Stringer October 18, 2012 | 10:47 p.m.

"Real religious" was reason to be real concerned. If Muslims truly follow their holy book, we all should be on the alert. Note this verse from the Quran:

Quran (9:29) - "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."

> The "People of the Book" are Christians and Jews.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 19, 2012 | 7:11 a.m.

This is how terrorism is most effectively controlled - covertly. The FBI did a very good job at setting this guy up. It's much better to do it this way than by military force, because the covert route causes no collateral damage (such damage motivating new terrorists to pick up the fight).

How many religious people actually follow their holy books? Terror is not an issue in this country - virtually all Americans will go their whole lives without being affected by an act of Islamist terrorism. Muslim bashing does not make us any safer.

DK

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 19, 2012 | 8:35 a.m.

Mark's is of course the liberal concept of cure for the terrorist threat.

Pull down the blinds in ones safe haven and depend on FBI to root out the "perp" before he/she can kill us, always the Islamist intent. From their lair in friendly countries the Jihadists are able to plan and plot and RECRUIT around the world. Liberals are willing for us to wait, hope and pray until Democrats (if left in control) like Senators Frank Church and Rob't. Torricelli, decide that reduced or eliminated intelligence gathering would be in our best interest. Then even FBI won't be able to help us.

Democrats cannot be trusted with the safety, health, or prosperity of our U.S. citizens.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 19, 2012 | 10:35 a.m.

Frank, it's working. Where's the terror? Plus it's a whole lot less expensive to do it with the FBI than with the military.

It's not a liberal, or Democratic, or political thing at all. It's appropriately responding to a real threat, without overdoing it, and getting only those people that need getting. What's liberal about that?

DK

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 19, 2012 | 11:38 a.m.

It ain't nothing but liberal! You start your timeline as liberals do, where it is convenient for you. In this case, after the wars, you so hate, have disrupted the Islamist terrorists threat nearly in it's entirety. You will side with Obama, Holder in the attempt to mis-identify terrorist acts such as the Fort Hood shootings as "workplace violence".
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2012/1...
This guy made Email contact with #2 of al-Qaeda and his speech for years identify him as a Jihadist. Benefits are withheld from relatives of the dead and injured, only because this Administration and you prefer to tell us the threat (J. Kerry) is only a "nuisance".

To get "those people that need getting" during the piracy of the 1800's our government went to Tripoli and cleaned out the nest of the offenders. Is there a way to stop any unwanted action, without addressing the source from which that action originates? You are the scientist. Please fill me in.

3

(Report Comment)
Rich C. October 19, 2012 | 1:07 p.m.

Frank's incoherent ramblings keep getting worse.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 19, 2012 | 3:38 p.m.

Rich: You say Frank is rambling incoherently.

I say Frank is old enough to remember Islamic terrorist attacks well before 1950....and all that has come after....and how foot-dragging and Obama-like "It was the video!" behavior has simply prolonged the whole sorry situation and cost even more lives.

I'm old enough to remember many of those events, too, but not as many as Frank.

Weakness leads to loss. Always. That sentiment works in ALL facets of life, not just foreign policy. The day you start remembering that fact is the day you become a greater asset to this country in ALL aspects of your life.

Condescending?

Almost certainly.

But that doesn't mean it's bad advice.

(Report Comment)

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