- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

An Iranian native and recent University of North Carolina graduate admitted that his motive for driving a rental car across the UNC campus was to kill people.

Friday afternoon, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, 22, admittedly drove his rented Jeep Cherokee through a heavily trafficked section of the UNC campus known as “the Pit,” injuring nine.

When asked by reporters if he was trying to kill his victims, Mr. Taheri-azar said, “Yes.”

No one was seriously hurt in the vehicular ambush, and some are loathe to call it an act of terror. However, Mr. Taheri-azar apparently disagrees. After turning himself in Friday, he told authorities his attack was designed to “avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world,” according to a statement from police Chief Derek Poarch.

The UNC’s Department of Public Safety charged Mr. Taheri-azar with nine counts of attempted murder and “nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill.”

Mr. Taheri-azar could, if convicted, face more than 100 years in prison. He is being held on $5.5 million bail.

When asked by The Washington Times as to why Mr. Taheri-azar was not charged with terrorism, Chief Poarch’s office said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges may yet be filed.

When asked by Orange County District Court Judge Patricia Devine if he had any questions, Mr. Taheri-azar said, “I actually don’t have any questions. I am thankful you are going to hear this trial to learn more about the will of Allah, the creator.”

After leaving court, Mr. Taheri-azar said his attack was, “the will of Allah, the creator.”

He said he intends to defend himself at his scheduled March 16 hearing.

But was it a terrorist attack?

“I think we are edging closer to that,” said UNC professor Cori Dauber, “It’s clear that he was trying to kill people.” She hopes the FBI and the terrorism task force will release details about what was found inside Mr. Taheri-azar’s apartment during their investigation and whether he received training from terrorist Web sites.

The question of terrorism is already sparking a debate on campus. UNC senior Kris Wampler organized an anti-terrorism protest on campus yesterday that attracted dozens of students. “The university is very pro-Islamic, and it’s been that way the whole time I’ve been here,” Mr. Wampler said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Wampler thinks Mr. Taheri-azar’s comments add fuel to the terrorist angle. “I think it really does justify what we’re saying,” Mr. Wampler said. “I hope he keeps talking. He’s just building the case.”

UNC’s Muslim student association said Mr. Taheri-azar was not a member of the group and denounced his actions on its Web site Friday.

“Regardless of what his intentions prove to be, we wholeheartedly deplore this action,” the group said on its site.

A statement from University Chancellor James Moeser described the attack as a “contemptible act of violence,” but stopped short of calling it terrorism.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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