The name of a Yale dropout was found on a list of recruits in a Kabul house used by a Pakistani group with ties to al Qaeda, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The list included 17 names, among them Hiram Torres, who attended Yale in 1993. The document did not contain the name of any organization, but was found among numerous materials of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, a Pakistani organization with links to Osama bin Laden. The list, found by a Times reporter in December, said Torres was “20 years old, unmarried, and knows driving.” Since Torres would now be 27 years old, it is thought that the list was written seven years ago.
There is no evidence that Torres ended up joining the anti-American forces in Afghanistan, and it is unclear whether he is even still alive. But Torres is currently the only American besides John Walker Lindh currently known to have any connection with Afghan militant groups.
Torres, who is of Puerto Rican descent, grew up in Perth Amboy, N.J., and attended Perth Amboy High School. He came to Yale in September 1993 and dropped out a month later, the Yale Registrar’s Office confirmed.
Zachary Scheiner ’97, one of Torres’ seven suitemates in C-42 of Welch Hall, said that while at Yale, Torres talked about his desire to live in an Islamic country.
“He wasn’t secretive,” Scheiner said. “He wanted to be in a different country. He certainly wasn’t violent and he didn’t talk about hating America — it just wasn’t a place he wanted to live.”
But Sachin Timbadia, a friend of Torres’ from high school, told the Times that Torres had dreams of becoming a revolutionary somewhere in the world.
Timbadia told the Times that Torres had insisted he didn’t want his senior picture taken for the high school yearbook because he “wanted to keep a low profile in case something happened in the future.”
Torres also apparently declined to submit a picture of himself for the Yale Old Campus facebook. Beside Torres’ name in the Class of 1997 Old Campus facebook is a photo of Bill Clinton making a speech, which was the alternate picture used that year.
Scheiner said Torres was “just a strange guy” who spent most of his time in the room and attended only one class.
“There was one class he went to,” Scheiner said. “It was either Sanskrit or Arabic, some Near Eastern language.”
Torres had traveled to Bangladesh the summer after graduating from high school. His mother, Olga Torres, told the Times that her son came home “a changed person.” She said he could not stop talking about Bangladesh when he got home, particularly about the way women respected men there.
Scheiner said Torres’ affinity for the Islamic culture was apparent in his behavior at Yale as well.
“One of the reasons he didn’t go outside was because all the women were dressed in ‘scandalous clothing,'” Scheiner said. “It was the beginning of the year, so women were in shorts and T-shirts, and he said it was sinful to look at them.”
Scheiner said Torres’ departure from Yale in October 1993 came “out of the blue.” Scheiner said Torres’ mother called for weeks afterward trying to find her son, but that his suitemates had to tell her they had no idea where he had gone.
Torres was in fact living with his aunt outside Boston, the Times reported, in order to make money to go back to Bangladesh. Torres left the United States some time in 1994. His mother got intermittent calls from him over the next few months, first from Bangladesh, then from Pakistan, and finally from Afghanistan.
Torres’ mother told the Times that she had not heard from Torres since 1998. American military and intelligence officials said they were unaware of the connection between Torres and any militant groups in Afghanistan. U.S. officials told the Times that Torres is not among the people detained in connection to terrorist and militant groups.