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Published: Thursday, 2/23/2006

Experts say terror links are formed overseas

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Terrorists could be attracted to college students, such as a University of Toledo student indicted by a federal grand jury, because of their technological capabilities, two terrorism experts said yesterday.

"There always is an effort to recruit students," said John Nutter, director of institutional research at the University of Toledo and a terrorism expert who has written books about covert operations. "Terrorists have to handle technology, so you try to recruit from the brightest people you can."

To that end, Marc Simon, chairman of Bowling Green State University's political science department, agreed. But he believes that those with terrorist connections have made them before setting foot in the United States, and may often enter with student visas.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, however, international students have faced a host of new federal immigration law changes that have slowed the stream of foreign students pouring into the United States for an education.

Therefore, Mr. Simon said, it might make sense for terrorists to recruit college students and other educated people who may live in the United States, but have ties to another country and are sympathetic to their cause.

"I don't feel like there's a threat on college campuses, but it would make sense that you would recruit in areas with a higher concentration of people more sympathetic with you," he said.

One man indicted this week was Wassim Mazloum, 24, who was born in Lebanon and grew up in Venezuela. After moving to the United States in 2000, he became a legal permanent resident and has been registered for classes as a mechanical engineering student at UT since 2001.

The other two indicted with him were Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 26, an American citizen who moved to Toledo about five years ago before settling in Jordan last year, and Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 42, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Amman, Jordan, and lives in Toledo.

While there was an overall decline in international students attending U.S. colleges and universities since Sept. 11, 2001, those numbers seemed to level off in 2005, according to a report from the Institute of International Education.

UT's pool of international students was at 805 in 2005, a number that has been steadily draining since at least 2001, when the university had 1,253 such students, said Stephen Perry, international student counselor for UT.

Other nearby universities seeing a decline in international student enrollment include Eastern Michigan University, where numbers dropped from 1,092 in 2001 to 734 last year, and Ohio State University, which dropped from 4,313 in 2001 to 3,817 last year.

Institute officials said the decline had been attributed to a variety of factors, including real and perceived difficulties in obtaining student visas, rising tuition costs, and recruitment of students by other English-speaking nations.

"You can go on and on," Mr. Perry said. "But the dust is settling since the restrictions have been in effect."

Among universities bucking the downward trend was BGSU, which has seen a slight increase since at least 2001 from 565 students to 620 in 2005.

"It's been gradual," said Anne Saviers, associate director of international programs at BGSU.

"Our retention rate is good," she said.

Contact Erika Ray at:

eray@theblade.com

or 419-724-6088.



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