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Former classmate: Abdulmutallab so 'angry sounding'

Men walk in front of the house of

Men walk in front of the house of Alhaji Umar Abdul Mutallab, the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspected Christmas Day airplane terrorist, in Funtua, Nigeria, on Sunday Dec. 27, 2009. Photo Credit: AP

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn't speak often to classmate Ruth McCall at their prestigious boarding school in West Africa. But when he did, she tried not to listen.

"It was so angry sounding," McCall, who is now living in South Korea, wrote in an e-mail to Newsday. "[H]e made me a tad uncomfortable at times."

"I tend to trust my intuition, and I just kept my distance," she added.

But she and other former classmates from the British School of Lomé in Togo were shocked to see Abdulmutallab's face on television this weekend, accused of trying to blow up a Christmas Day Northwest Airlines flight with 290 passengers and crew members aboard. Abdulmutallab, 23, has told federal authorities that he received bomb materials and training from an al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen.

"We are all praying for him, his family and everyone affected by this," McCall said. "That he will get the help he needs."

As a teenager, his British boarding school teachers nicknamed him "The Pope" for his pious airs, but Abdulmutallab, who went by his middle name, was already a devout Muslim with sympathies for the religion's fringe elements.

At age 14 in 2001, he was the only student to defend the Taliban's rule over Afghanistan in a discussion at the boarding school, a former teacher there told The Associated Press.

No one thought anything of it then because Abdulmutallab seemed like a pleasant, polite young man, said the teacher, Michael Rimmer, of London. "Somewhere along the line, he must have met some sort of fanatics, and they must have turned his mind," Rimmer said.

"You would never expect this coming from him; he's a very good guy, a very good chap to hang out with," ex-classmate Efemena Mokedi told the BBC. "The numbers do not add up."

After graduating from the British School in 2005, Abdulmutallab moved to London and attended the prestigious University College London, where he studied mechanical engineering.

Abdulmutallab left London in 2008 and decided to travel, his father has said. He got a two-year visa to travel to the United States and flew into Houston in August that year. He studied business management briefly in Dubai before quitting to take up courses in Yemen, the BBC reported.

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>>CLICK HERE: Complaint against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

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