Close Friend of 'Underwear Bomber' Saw No Hint of Militancy

Friend insists "underwear bomber" was more interested in economics than jihad.

ByABC News
December 29, 2009, 12:19 PM

LONDON, Dec. 30, 2009 — -- A close college friend of the accused "underwear bomber" insists Umar Farouk Abdumutallab did not become an Islamic radical while attending school in London and wasn't an isolated loner, but admits he cannot explain why his friend apparently volunteered to become a human bomb.

"He was a very likable person, honest, well-spoken, and very genuine," Qasim Rafiq told ABC News in London today. "When I heard about what happened I was totally shocked. There was nothing in his personality that raised question marks."

"If I met him today, I would ask him what was he hoping to achieve?" Rafiq said.

Rafiq is trying along with government officials and counterterrorism experts to find the roots behind Abdulmutallab's attempt to blow up a jetliner filled with Christmas travellers.

Some have pointed to the 23-year-old's Internet writings in which he complains about loneliness, a common trait in many of the Muslim men who have become suicide bombers and terrorists.

"The isolation that they all seem to have -- a common theme -- is very telling," former FBI profiler and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett told "Before they get inspired to do what they do, there's got to be some sort of depression."

Writings and online postings said to have been penned by Abdulmutallab in recent years reveal a young, privileged man unsure of how to handle his growing independence and religious views that had already started to take on a more fundamentalist tone from his family.

"Can you be my friend?" he wrote in 2005. "I get lonely sometimes because I have never found a true Muslim friend."

But Rafiq says the Internet writings don't match up to the student he knew at the prestigious University College London from 2005 to 2008. "He did not become radicalized while in London. His actions (the attack) were out of character. We used to talk about football, hold weekly games," Rafiq insisted.