The ongoing account of two American brothers, Nathan and Patrick Lawwill arrested in northern Tunisia earlier this week continues to hold the interest of many in the international press.
The brothers were initially arrested on suspicion of terror-related activity in Jendouba in northern Tunisia on Tuesday, before being released the following day. Since then, a number of details have come to light highlighting the troubled past of the two former Michigan residents.
A search of Nathan Lawwill’s Facebook account, established under a pseudonym, reveals a deluge of daily posts on the subject of religion and contains indications of what appears to be an unstable personal life. In the posts, Nathan refers to himself as The Mahdi— the Islamic Messiah—sent by God to unite Shias and Sunnis and protect Tunisia from the United States.
Speaking to Michigan news station, Wood TV, a former girlfriend told of being choked and threatened by Nathan. The outlet aired a text message from Nathan that reportedly reads:
“You had no fear of lying to me so I will have no fear of killing you and your entire family and those police officers and anybody else that stands in my way.”
The ex-girlfriend was reportedly unsurprised by his arrest in Tunisia.
“This person (Nathan) is beyond help,” she said. “He needs to be put where he can’t hurt anyone else.”
The Lawwill’s remarkable story first came to light four days ago, when police in Jendouba confirmed that they had arrested two disheveled Americans with long beards in a house, (some reports said, encampment) outside of the University. Early reports from Tunisian security services suggested that the two men were in contact with foreign terror groups, were intent on promoting extremist religious beliefs, and potentially plotting attacks on institutions within the country.
However, the day following their arrest the brothers were released by Tunisia’s Anti-Terror Brigade in Tunis, which found no direct evidence linking either brother to terror plots or extremist ideas. Moreover, what were originally thought to be plans to attack institutions within Tunisia, might in fact have been little more than maps of the country. Following their release, the men were driven away by a U.S. embassy vehicle, the New York Times reported.
Further confusion was added to an already muddied picture when some Tunisian security personnel voicing concern over their release. “We are not sure why they were released,” a senior police official in Jendouba told NBC News on the condition of anonymity. “The two American brothers are certainly not tourists and their behavior is suspicious. They had a lot of cash … they came to an ISIS hot spot [and] they also wanted to register in university at 31 years old but had no documents with them.”
Initial reports also stated that the brothers’ passports included stamps from the United Arab Emirate (UAE), and that one brother lacked the proper Tunisian documentation on his passport–suggesting that he may have entered the country illegally.
A media spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Tunis has declined to comment on the situation.