Tunisia, where Obama and Hillary Clinton started the Arab Spring/Winter/Summer/Fall.
TUNIS, Tunisia — Two American brothers have been arrested in Tunisia on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization, two local sources told NBC News.
A senior police official said the brothers were both aged in their 30s and originally from Michigan. A source in the governor’s office also confirmed the arrests.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the police source said one of the men was carrying a U.S. passport that identified him as Patrick Alan Lawwill. NBC News has seen a photocopy of the passport, which was apparently issued in July 2015 and lists Lawwill’s place of birth as Michigan.
Police were not able to provide a copy of the second suspect’s documents.
A State Department official said it was aware of reports the pair had been arrested “on suspicion of terrorist activities” but declined to comment further because of “privacy considerations.”
The brothers were arrested in the northwestern city of Jendouba on Tuesday, according to the local police source.
The pair had recently converted from Christianity to Islam and one of them was married to a Tunisian woman who was also arrested, the source said.
The brothers, who both wore beards and traditional clothing, were reported to authorities by locals who said they were “behaving suspiciously,” the source added.
Another official in the local governor’s office, also speaking anonymously, told NBC News that the pair came to study in the University of Jendouba two weeks ago.
Officials who raided the encampment where they were staying found material relating to hardline Islamic law and jihad, according to the governor’s office source.
One of the American brothers arrested in northern Tunisia in connection with terrorism charges is understood to be 31 year old Patrick Alan Lawwill, from Lansing, Michigan. Lawwill was arrested along with his brother, understood to be a 32 year old named Nathan.
Working in partnership with the Lansing State Journal, a daily newspaper in Michigan’s capital, Tunisia Live has discovered that both brothers appear to have lengthy criminal records, including charges of domestic violence and, in one instance, indications of mental health issues.
Lawwill and his brother were detained by Tunisian authorities Tuesday morning after they were found plotting terror attacks from an encampment in Zawha City. The brothers have been staying in the greater Tunis area for about a year, Jawhara FM reports, but recently moved to Jendouba on October 23. According to police, the brothers had been in contact with international terror groups via social media.
Police described the brothers as having been found unwashed, with long beards, and living in poor conditions in an encampment near the University of Jendouba.
While the brothers claimed to have been studying computer science at the University of Jendouba, sources at the local police station said they were not enrolled at the University and that this was likely a cover.
Police were tipped off by locals, suspicious of the men’s activities and discovered jihadist content on the brother’s personal laptops and plans to build explosives.
In the company of a translator, the brothers told authorities that they had recently converted to Islam, and wanted to introduce Shariah law throughout the country. They also had stamps from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on their passports.
One of the brothers is said to have entered into an Urfi, (religious rather than legal) marriage with a Tunisian girl from Borj Louzir, Ariana. She was arrested in Lafeyette, Tunis Tuesday afternoon.
According to local police in Jendouba, the brothers will be transferred to a judicial division in Tunis.
A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy speaking to Tunisia Live yesterday declined to comment on the developing story.