Investigation Into London Bombings Targets Ex-N.C. State Student
Posted July 15, 2005 12:10 p.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — FBI agents searched for clues Thursday that could help them find a former North Carolina State University graduate student they want to question about last week's terrorist bombings in London.
The Egyptian-born academic, Magdy el-Nashar, 33, studied chemical engineering at N.C. State for just one semester beginning in January 2000, NCSU spokesman Keith Nichols said.
Saad Khan, the chemical engineering department's director of graduate programs, said he remembered that el-Nashar applied for admission while living in Egypt. But by the end of the spring semester, el-Nashar had changed direction and decided to pursue a doctorate at England's University of Leeds, Khan said.
"He came in and he decided to go somewhere else," Khan said.
Peter Kilpatrick, the head of NCSU's chemical engineering department, said he handed over all his files on el-Nashar to FBI agents Thursday.
Members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Raleigh were at work on the case, said Michael Saylor, who heads the Raleigh FBI office. He referred other questions to FBI headquarters in Washington, which declined comment.
"We're not going to comment on a British investigation." FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak said.
The Times of London, quoting unidentified police sources, said detectives were interested in locating el-Nashar, who recently taught chemistry at Leeds. The Times said he was believed to have rented one of the homes being searched in Leeds, the northern England city where at least two of the four suicide bombers lived. In the apartment, news reports say, police found explosives.
Other reports link el-Nashar to Hasib Hussain, whom authorities suspect was the suicide bomber on the No. 30 double-decker bus. London news agencies say investigators found el-Nashar's phone number stored in Hussain's cell phone.
In a statement Thursday, Leeds University said el-Nashar enrolled in October 2000 to do biochemical research, sponsored by the National Research Center in Cairo, Egypt. It said he earned a doctorate May 6.
"We understand he was seeking a post doctorate position in the U.K.," the university said. "His visa was updated by the Home Office earlier this year. He has not been seen on the campus since the beginning of July."
Neighbors said el-Nashar told them recently he had a visa problem and had to leave Britain, The Times reported. El-Nashar has not been seen in the United Kingdom since the beginning of July. His whereabouts are unknown, but investigators say he may have returned to Egypt.
Police have searched several homes in Leeds in their hunt for anyone who aided the July 7 subway and bus attacks that killed 52 and injured 700. Authorities suspect the bombers didn't work alone and that their collaborators or leader are still probably at large.
The Daily Telegraph of London said police were trying to identify a man seen standing near the four suicide bombers on a railway station platform in Luton, where they apparently boarded a train for London on July 7.
The Evening Standard of London reported that police spotted a fifth man on closed-circuit TV showing the group at London's King's Cross station about 20 minutes before the explosions.
N.C. State's last address in Raleigh for El-Nashar was in a single-story, 7-unit building on Jackson Street in Raleigh. Two neighbors said they had moved in since 2000 and did not know el-Nashar.
The possible N.C. State link to the London attacks is not the university's only link to a terror case. Sami Al-Arian, who taught an electrical engineering class in the 1980s, is one of four people accused of aiding terrorists, the government says, that used organizations to launder money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He is on trial in Tampa, Fla.