Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a US passenger jet, was a brilliant student, but even at school he was likened to an imam because of his Islamic fervour, according to media accounts.
The 23-year-old Abdulmutallab is the youngest of 16 children of a powerful Nigerian banker, who worried about his extreme views. The accused man studied mechanical engineering at University College London.
Before college, Abdulmutallab went to the British International School in the Togo capital, Lome, Togo, where he was known for preaching to classmates and was nicknamed "Alfa", a local term for Muslim scholar, Nigerian newspaper This Day reported.
Michael Rimmer, who taught history at the school, told the BBC that his former pupil had supported the Taliban regime that ran Afghanistan until they were deposed by a US-led coalition in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.
"I remember... he thought the Taliban were OK, whereas all the other Muslim kids at school thought they were a bunch of nutters," Rimmer said.
Despite this, Rimmer described Abdulmutallab as "every teacher's dream -- he was very keen, enthusiastic, very bright, very polite".
Smart maybe, but Abdulmutallab's family worried about the young man now accused of trying to blow up a Christmas Day Amsterdam to Detroit flight.
From Lome, Abdulmutallab went to London and British police have searched a string of properties, including a plush mansion block in the upscale Marylebone district where Abdulmutallab is thought to have lived in a flat.
He is believed to have gone to University College which has said that an Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied mechanical engineering there from 2005 to 2008, though it could not confirm this was the jet bomb suspect.
This Day said that after London, Abdulmutallab moved to Egypt and then Dubai, telling his family that he was severing all ties with them. Security officials told US media that Abdulmutallab had told them he trained with an Al-Qaeda bomb maker in Yemen.
Abdulmutallab was barred from returning to Britain in May.
A Sunday Times report said the UK Border Agency rejected Abdulmutallab's request for a visa for the six-month course because the college concerned was considered bogus.
The suspect's father, Umaru Mutallab, was so worried about his son's religious extremism that he contacted the US embassy in Abuja in November, a US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said Abdulmutallab had been added to a broad terrorism watchlist, but was not put on a no-fly list.
The 70-year-old father was the former chief of the United Bank for Africa and First Bank of Nigeria, two of the nation's biggest banks. He retired last week as chairman of First Bank and had also founded the first Islamic bank in Nigeria, Jaiz International Bank, in 2003.
Mutallab left his home city of Funtua in northern Katsina State for Abuja on Saturday to meet with security officials to discuss his son's case.
"I have been receiving telephone calls from all over the world about my child who has been arrested for an alleged attempt to bomb a plane," Mutallab said.
"I am really disturbed. I would not want to say anything at the moment until I put myself together," he said. "I have been summoned by the Nigerian security and I am on my way to Abuja to answer the call."
This Day said the father as surprised that his son was issued a US visa after he had reported his concerns to US authorities.