WTC Bombing Suspect Tells Family He’s Innocent
JERASH, Jordan (AP) _ The Jordanian man facing charges in the World Trade Center bombing never would have plotted violence against the United States because he loved Westerns, hamburgers and ``everything American,″ his relatives insisted Thursday.
Iyad Mahmoud Ismail Nijm, 24, was extradited to New York on Thursday for trial on charges he played a major role in the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing that killed six people and injured 1,000. The suspect was identified in the indictment as Eyad Ismoil, apparently a shortened version of his full name.
He was arrested in Jordan on Tuesday at the request of the United States.
In an interview in their modest stone house overlooking Roman ruins in Jerash, 30 miles north of Amman, several members of the Nijm family said they did not believe Iyad was involved in the bombing.
``He asked us not to cry or be sad because he is innocent and said that he will come back in two or three months,″ his 18-year-old brother, Salah, said.
Another brother, 27-year-old Walid, said Iyad loved to regale him with stories about his ``adventures″ in the United States.
``He loved everything American from cowboy movies to hamburgers and there is no way that he could have done anything to harm America or its people,″ Walid said.
Iyad was born in Kuwait, where his father, Mahmoud Nijm, worked for an oil company. The family, which had fled to Kuwait from the West Bank town of Nablus following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, moved to Jordan in 1990 after Iraq invaded the emirate.
Iyad, who had just graduated from high school in Kuwait, moved to Kansas to study electronic engineering at Wichita State University after graduating from high school in Kuwait in 1990, said his uncle, Ali Nijm, 39.
He was forced to drop out of college in 1992 because his father was unable to pay the tuition. He then moved to Dallas to stay with friends and found a job at a fast-food restaurant.
While in Texas, he married an American woman named Christina, his uncle said. He said he knew nothing else about her.
Nijm returned to Jordan after his mother persuaded him to come back and help his ailing father run the family’s small mechanics shop, and got a divorce after his wife refused to join him in Jordan.
Iyad’s parents were not home during the interview, but two uncles and several of Iyad’s seven brothers and sisters were there.
Interior Ministry officials confirmed that Iyad had no criminal record and was not involved in any political or religious activities.
``He rarely went to the mosque,″ said Khaldoun Maqableh, 26, a neighbor, when asked whether Iyad had any connections to religious groups suspected of links to the blast.
``He was a peaceful person who loved animals and never advocated violence against anyone,″ Maqableh said.
He said he remembered Iyad telling him that he ``heard″ about the New York explosion when he was en route to Jordan. Iyad ``was angry at the perpetrators,″ he said.