Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Last of 11 missing Egyptian students rounded up

Last of 11 missing Egyptian students rounded up
Mon Aug 14, 2006 12:38 PM ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A nationwide search for 11 Egyptian students who failed to show up for an academic program in Montana has ended with the last two caught outside their rented apartment in Virginia, U.S. authorities said on Monday.

Several of the missing Egyptian students apprehended around the United States over the past week told immigration authorities they had planned to live and work in the United States, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said.

"Rather than seeking to attend the academic program in Montana, they actually were here to stay, get jobs, and earn money," said agency spokesman Dean Boyd.

The students did not pose "any credible or imminent threat," but the U.S. agency said it will seek to have them deported.

The last two missing students -- Mohamed Saleh Ahmed Maray, age 20, and Mohamed Ibrahim Fouaad El Shenawy, age 17 -- were arrested on Sunday on immigration violations while sitting on the front steps of the apartment they had rented in Richmond, Virginia. Agents were acting on a tip.

Two others caught near Baltimore last week had begun working at a pizza restaurant, Boyd said.

The 11 students were part of a group of 17 who arrived on July 29 in New York, supposedly en route to Bozeman, Montana, to attend a month-long academic program.

When only six students showed up in Bozeman, the school notified authorities who sent out a "be on the look out" request to police departments across the country.

The students were arrested alone or in groups of two or three in New Jersey, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, and Minnesota.

The United States put in place a system to track violators of its student visa program after the September 11 attacks.

One of the 19 hijackers had entered the United States on a student visa, and authorities were embarrassed when, six months after the attacks, student visas came through for two other dead hijackers to allow them to take flight lessons. One of those was alleged ringleader Mohamed Atta.

Roughly 1 million foreign students are in the United States at any given time and thousands have been tracked down after violating the terms of their temporary visas.

Concerns about possible attacks are running high in the United States after Britain thwarted a plot last week to blow up airliners headed to U.S. cities.

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