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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Bodybuilding stuntman who turned to Islam
Kerim Chatty
Mr Chatty won martial arts gold and appeared in a film
Kerim Chatty had built up a very varied CV even before the latest entry of hijack suspect.

Reports from Sweden say he had dabbled in flying, acting and the criminal underworld before he was converted to the Islamic faith in a jail cell.

Mr Chatty was born in a quiet suburb of Stockholm in 1973 to a Tunisian physiotherapist father, Sadok, and Swedish mother, Gunilla. He has a brother and two sisters.

Mr Chatty had his first encounter with the police in 1991 when he was convicted of illegal driving.

Swedish courthouse
Mr Chatty has made several court appearances and has several convictions
He then became something of a familiar character to both the Swedish police and the intelligence service, with convictions for firearms offences and violence.

"He was a gangster, a hoodlum, as far as we knew," a Swedish police source told Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

But at the same time, Mr Chatty was also a fitness fanatic and keen Thai boxer, winning a gold medal at a Swedish martial arts championship in 1994.

In 1996, he tried to live out another dream, enrolling in a flying school in the United States.

His younger sister, Sarah, told the Associated Press news agency she remembered how excited her brother was about going to the school in South Carolina.

"It was just a hobby," the 19-year-old said.

"Like I want to dance, he wanted to fly."

But his time in the US was to be brief. Accepted into the North American Institute of Aviation in September 1996, he was asked to leave the course a few months later.

The director of the school in the town of Conway, Robert Sunday, said: "He just wasn't a good student... he wasn't cutting the mustard and we let him go."

Coincidences

Some of the hijackers involved in the 11 September attacks also attended or visited flight schools in the US.

But investigators seem to regard this as just a coincidence.

Mr Chatty did not convert to Islam until after attending flight school, and Swedish prosecutors have found no evidence that he had ties to al-Qaeda or any other militant groups.

North American flying school in South Carolina
Kerim Chatty failed the flight school in South Carolina

Mr Chatty's US visa was conditional on him attending flight school and he returned to Sweden in 1997 when he landed a role in a martial arts film 9 Millimetre alongside prestigious Swedish actors.

But his police record showed he became involved with Stockholm's criminal underworld and he was arrested and convicted for carrying a loaded 9mm Glock machine pistol.

Britain's The Times newspaper reported that it was while Mr Chatty was in jail for the firearms offence that he met Oussama Kassir, who was to become his mentor.

The newspaper said an FBI indictment against another man identified Mr Kassir as a hitman for Osama Bin Laden, though the man has denied that.

Mr Kassir said he became close friends with Mr Chatty and was instrumental in his conversion to Islam.

Devoted believer

"I taught Kerim to pray. We drank coffee, played games and did the things you do to while away the days. He has become a good Muslim, and it makes me glad," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Friends and relatives have said Mr Chatty became more and more devoted to Islam and that he was attending a religious school in Saudi Arabia at the time of last year's 11 September attacks.

Though he is believed to have become a devotee of the ultra-orthodox Salafi school of Islam said to be favoured by Bin Laden, his friends say he was never interested in violence and certainly did not plan to hijack the Ryanair flight from Sweden to Britain.

In the absence of any evidence that he did, investigators released him from custody on 30 September but kept the case open.

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