From Student Pilot To Terrorist Suspect To Fugitive
We may never know exactly how commercial student Zayad Hajaig became a fugitive terrorist suspect but the British national, with the help of friends in the U.S., is now trying to assure American authorities that he has no links to terrorist groups. "I am not a bloody terrorist," Hajaig is quoted in The Atlanta Constitution Journal as writing in an e-mail to his friend Leonard Harris, who owns an Atlanta pilot shop. Hajaig fled to London after federal authorities sought to question him over allegations that he "became aggressive" with a flight instructor in a bid to gain a commercial certificate. Authorities later found a handgun and two rifles that he allegedly possessed illegally. Hajaig and his U.S. friends claim it's a misunderstanding that went wildly out of control. "This is stupid," said Harris. "He is no terrorist." However, U.S. authorities do look dimly on the Nigerian-born Hajaig's sudden flight home. "He is a fugitive," said U.S. attorney's office spokesman Patrick Crosby. Meanwhile, the flight instructor, Jim Archer, is denying claims by Hajaig and his friends that he called federal authorities. He said Hajaig tried to get him to sign off on his commercial certificate without flying with him and he refused. Harris said Hajaig was close to getting his commercial ticket when his visa expired. When federal authorities contacted him, Harris said Hajaig panicked and fled to England. Soon afterward, the Atlanta Joint Terrorism Task Force issued an alert. "All I am guilty of is overstaying my visa and that has mushroomed into something that is frankly quite embarrassing," Hajaig wrote in an e-mail to Harris.