The FBI is investigating the case of an alleged al-Qaeda raised in New Jersey who is accused of trying to shoot his way out of a hospital in Yemen.
FBI spokesman Rich Wolf in Baltimore confirmed Thursday that the agency is looking into the case of 26-year-old Sharif Mobley, who grew up in the southern New Jersey town of Buena. Wolf wouldn't comment further.
WMGM-TV in Atlantic City quoted "federal sources'' as saying Mobley is the man accused of shooting two guards over the weekend in a Yemeni hospital where he was being held prisoner. One of the guards died, and the suspect was caught after a chase.
As his father, Charles Mobley, and his wife pulled out of their driveway on their way to see a lawyer Friday, he said: "I can tell you this: He's no terrorist.''
His mother told WMGM that her son was in Yemen when she spoke to him in late January and that the FBI had visited her home.
Security and hospital officials in Yemen told The Associated Press over the weekend that an al-Qaida prisoner receiving treatment in the Republican Hospital in San'a attacked the guards while trying to escape.
It wasn't clear why the Baltimore FBI office was investigating, but records show Mobley previously lived in Newark, Del. The agency's Baltimore office covers Delaware.
A member of the Yemeni intelligence service confirmed Thursday that the man, originally described in statements as foreign, was a Somali-American. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
He was originally arrested as part of an earlier sweep against al-Qaeda, according to other security officials, and was in prison on charges of membership of the group. He complained of being ill and was admitted to the hospital, where was held under heavy guard while he was treated for around a week until his escape attempt, said a member of the security forces.
Officials say he snatched a gun from one security guard and shot him, then made his way down from his fifth-floor room to the ground floor. Witnesses say he then got into a shootout with hospital security guards, who pinned him down until a unit of the anti-terrorism police apprehended him.
The West has expressed concern about the growing al-Qaida presence in Yemen.
Michael Brothman of Vineland, N.J., said he graduated with Mobley from Buena Regional High School in 2002. He remembered Mobley boasting that he had a black belt in karate, being a fan of anime and being competitive in gym class. Mobley was also a member of his high school's wrestling team.
Campaign finance records show Mobley received $75 as an election day worker for Gov. Jon Corzine's campaign in 2005.
"I was kind of shocked when my friend called me about the news reports,'' Brothman said.
Dawn Bass, another classmate, told WMGM that Mobely was "a really nice kid'' who liked to be the center of attention.