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In online posts apparently by Detroit suspect, religious ideals collide

A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a trans-Atlantic airplane on Christmas Day as it descended toward Detroit's airport. The White House called it an attempted act of terrorism.

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By Philip Rucker and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The 23-year-old Nigerian man accused of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an American airliner apparently turned to the Internet for counseling and companionship, writing in an online forum that he was "lonely" and had "never found a true Muslim friend."

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"I have no one to speak too [sic]," read a posting from January 2005, when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was attending boarding school. "No one to consult, no one to support me and I feel depressed and lonely. I do not know what to do. And then I think this loneliness leads me to other problems."

The Washington Post reviewed 300 online postings under the name "farouk1986" (a combination of Abdulmutallab's middle name and birth year). The postings mused openly about love and marriage, his college ambitions and angst over standardized testing, as well as his inner struggle as a devout Muslim between liberalism and extremism. In often-intimate writings, posted between 2005 and 2007, he sought friends online, through Facebook and in Islamic chat rooms: "My name is Umar but you can call me Farouk." He often invited readers to "have your say" and once wrote, "May Allah reward you for reading and reward you more for helping."

A U.S. government official said late Monday that federal intelligence officials were reviewing the online postings but had not independently confirmed their authenticity.

Many of the biographical details in the writings, however, match up with facts already known about Abdulmutallab.

Farouk1986 wrote of being born in 1986 and having attended an elite British boarding school in Togo, where many of his classmates were British expatriates and students from around West Africa.

The postings also reference visits to London, the United States and other countries, including Egypt and Yemen. Department of Homeland Security officials said Monday that Abdulmutallab traveled to the United States in July 2004 to Washington and in August 2008 to Houston.

Farouk1986 wrote about considering applications to U.S. and British universities, including University College London, where officials said Abdulmutallab enrolled in a mechanical engineering course from September 2005 to June 2008. He also wrote about his family's wealth; Abdulmutallab's father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a frequent visitor to the United States, retired this year as chairman of First Bank of Nigeria and still sits on the boards of several prominent Nigerian firms.

All of the postings are on the Islamic Forum Web site (http://www.gawaher.com), which uses a commercially available chat-forum software called IP.Board that automatically assigns dates to users' posts as they are created. Many of Farouk1986's postings drew comments from other forum members on the day they were written.

Taken together, the writings demonstrate an acute awareness of Western customs and a worldliness befitting Abdulmutallab's privileged upbringing as a wealthy Nigerian banker's son.

Embracing privilege

In a June 2005 posting, Farouk1986 wrote that he was in Yemen for a three-month Arabic course, saying that "it is just great." He described how many British people and Americans were in Sanaa, gushing about the capital's shopping and global cuisine (including, he noted, Pizza Hut and KFC).

The Yemeni Embassy said Monday that Abdulmutallab was in Yemen between August and December of this year to study Arabic at a language institute. He earlier spent time at the same institute, the embassy said.


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