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Chowan professor remembers student, 9/11 mastermind 20 years later

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:16 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A retired North Carolina professor taught chemistry in the 1980s, and one of his students was the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

With more than 45 years of teaching experience, retired Chowan University professor, Dr. Garth Faile, taught thousands of students from all walks of life. Little did he know, one of those students would orchestrate the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S history. Faile had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in one of his classes.

“I do remember a little bit about him,” Faile said. “For example, he had the highest laboratory average for the class and that class had 50 students in it.”

Mohammed attended Chowan University in 1983.

During a 2007 confession, Mohammed said he was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z.

“I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it,” Faile said. “I understand he’s in Guantanamo Bay waiting for trial.”

Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and has been in the custody of U.S authorities ever since.

In 2009, the FBI contacted Faile to gather information on his former student. He quickly learned you can’t judge a book by its cover.

“All I could tell them was he was a good student and at the time he sat in front of the classroom,” Faile said. “He was like all the other students that were foreign. Half of them were foreign in the class I had.”

Mohammed is in the pretrial hearings for his war crimes trial. This is the ninth year of pre-trial hearings, and officials say there is no trial date set.

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