Thursday, August 10, 2006

Missing Egyptian Found In The Twin Cities

An Egyptian student sought along with 10 others who failed to show up for an exchange program in Montana was arrested in Minnesota on Wednesday. Eslam Ibrahim Mohamed El-Dessouki, 21, was taken into custody at a residence here around 11 a.m., on what was termed an administrative immigration violation as an out-of-status student, according to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Paul McCabe, a spokesman for the FBI in Minneapolis, said the FBI and ICE remain "extremely interested" in interviewing the other missing Egyptian students. The missing students pose no terrorism threat, the agency said. Later Wednesday, two other students surrendered to police in New Jersey, the FBI said. Steven Siegal, a spokesman for the FBI's Newark office, said the students - Mohamed Ragab Mohamed Abd Alla and Ebrahim Mabrouk Moustafa Abdou, both 22 - came to police headquarters in Manville, N.J. after hearing media reports that they were wanted.Authorities began searching for the 11 Egyptian students after they arrived in the United States last month, but failed to show up for an exchange program at Montana State University. The Egyptian men were among a group of 17 students who arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York from Cairo on July 29 with valid visas, according to U.S. authorities and university officials. The other six arrived as planned at the Bozeman, Mont., campus. Montana State repeatedly tried to contact the missing students, including via e-mail, a school official said earlier this week. When that failed, the school notified Homeland Security officials and registered the Egyptians as "no-shows" in the system developed after the Sept. 11 attacks to track foreign students. They were participating in an exchange program the university arranged with Mansoura University in Mansoura, Egypt. Norm Peterson, vice provost for international education at Montana State, said he doubts the school will have any future contact with the missing students. "I guess I'm not optimistic that we are ever going to hear from them," he said Wednesday. "It's more likely that they will hopefully depart from the country as soon as possible voluntarily - or the federal authorities will continue to track them down and deal with them appropriately." The six students who did arrive for the monthlong program on English language instruction and U.S. history and culture "are doing fine under the circumstances," Peterson said. "But it is really a challenging situation for them to suddenly have so much press attention" for simply being the ones who showed up, he said. The government tightened the student visa process after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. One of the hijackers involved in the attacks had arrived in the U.S. with a student visa, and immigration officials approved student visas for two other hijackers after they entered the country. A fourth attended flight training school without a student visa.