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Binghamton Religion Professor Richard Antoun Killed by Saudi Student Abdulsalam al-Zahrani, Say Cops

(CBS/Binghamton University)
Photo: Richard T. Antoun.

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (CBS/AP) Those who lived and studied with Abdulsalam al-Zahrani, the Saudi student who, police say, killed religion professor Richard T. Antoun, say he was confrontational and even threatened one roommate with a knife.

Souleyman Sukho said Saturday that the graduate student, accused of fatally stabbing Antoun, a Binghamton University anthropology professor, came at him with a blade during the three weeks they shared an apartment with a third student, Luis Pena.

"He asked me if I was afraid of dying," Sukho said. "Then he went into his room. I told him, 'Don't ask me the question if you don't want to hear my answer."'

Just three weeks after their landlord rented a spare room to the 46-year-old Saudi national, al-Zahrani was charged with murder in the death of 77-year-old Antoun. The professor was stabbed in his campus office Friday, and the weapon was later recovered, authorities said.

Sukho and Pena say they never heard their volatile roommate mention Antoun, who was a professor with the anthropology department, where al-Zahrani was working on a dissertation about early Arabic culture.

Pena says he recalls their roommate sitting on the sofa and suddenly blurting out, "I just feel like destroying the world." According to Sukho, al-Zahrani claimed there were students spying on him and he was being persecuted because he was Muslim.

Another student, Awni Qasaimeh, said al-Zahrani made similar claims in recent days, naming three students he suspected and saying: "Tell these students not to follow me. ... Do not make me trouble."

Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen said in a statement that "there is no indication of religious or ethnic motivation." Mollen didn't know whether al-Zahrani had an attorney.

Mollen said al-Zahrani and the professor had "known each other for quite some time."

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