One of two Michigan brothers arrested in Tunisia this week on suspicion of terror says he is the Islamic messiah foretold to bring about Judgment Day, according to social media posts discovered by The Daily Beast.
NBC News identified one of the brothers as Patrick Alan Lawwill, 31, based on a passport shown to them by Tunisian officials Wednesday morning. Public records show Patrick has one brother who matches the age of the other suspect arrested in Tunisia, 32-year-old Nathan Wells Lawwill.
Nathan posts on Facebook under a pseudonym where he says he is a convert to Islam who does not speak much Arabic and recently married in Tunisia. The day before his arrest, Nathan wrote he is a divine being.
“I am two in one. Mahdi to Muslims and Messiah to the Jews,” he wrote. “Christians hate me because they know Jesus when they see him. But not Jesus when I am hidden in plain sight. Did you not read all the parable and see the signs when I was still yet with you and now too?”
“3 signs confirm me,” Nathan added later that day. “Jesus was hung not crucified. I was held down by the police in America. I was sent to protect Tunisia from the US.”
Tunisian authorities told Tunisia Live that the brothers were found unwashed with long beards on Oct. 25 and that they had radical content on their computers. They were reportedly living near a university campus in Jendouba, close to Tunisia’s border with Algeria. Initial reports said the brothers were planning an attack on the Algerian border, but Tunisian news site Kapitalis reports they may have since been released pending further investigation.
Nathan posted about men attacking him a day later.
“I was attacked by 6 men one specifically intent on stealing my phone. I held on tight and cursed them. Than I screamed one word by natural instinct: Allah!” he wrote in the early morning of Oct. 26. “And suddenly all went away quickly and 2 men came to me swiftly and took me swiftly to two more who took me to my home. Many think I’m a hypocrite or Satan. I’m not. I’m the rarest gift to Muslims. I don’t look like much. I am small lamb and the mightiest lion. I don’t lie but I frequently misunderstand because I’m highly intellectually intelligent.”
On the Facebook page, Nathan says he was born in Okemos, Michigan, and spent his formative years in Lansing. He writes that he was homeless for parts of his early life, and then spent time in foster care, as did his brother Patrick. He said the brothers were put into foster care with “some really sick and twisted people” who abused them, Nathan said. He fled at one point, but the foster parents tried to stop him. (The foster parents named in the post are deceased, according to public records. Efforts to reach their immediate relatives were unsuccessful.) The locations identified by Nathan match the locations of the brothers in public records.
For many years he was a Christian, and he spent time in Florida. There, he married a woman who later divorced him. She did not return a request for comment. He wrote of his time as a Christian in 2007 as the source of “trials” that led him to Allah.
He also recently wrote about divorce from a Tunisian woman, and then cryptically about another potential marriage. Authorities say one of the brothers had a religious marriage to a Tunisian woman who was also detained.
Nathan has a lengthy criminal history in the U.S., and served time in Florida for domestic violence charges. He was on awaiting trial in Michigan on criminal sexual conduct, stalking, and domestic violence charges when he suddenly disappeared last fall.
“He appeared for a few court dates, and at one point he just failed to appear for a date in circuit court,” attorney Michael Van Huysse told The Daily Beast. Eventually, Van Huysse asked to be removed as his attorney.
It was at that time, around a year ago, that he may have moved to Tunisia.
Today, Nathan Lawwill’s religious ramblings on Facebook look more like self-important rants than typical jihadist screeds, sometimes reaching more than a dozen posts a day.
“I hope Facebook expands things because I am going to be the center of the world very quickly and it is already getting to be HUGE!!!” he wrote in one October post.
In one post on Oct. 18, he condemned jihadists by urging European Muslims to treat returning ones after the battle of Mosul kindly, but not to trust them.
“[InshaAllah] Allah will heal their hearts and restore to us our brothers and sisters mother’s and father’s our people will be whole again,” he wrote.
At other times, he posted about a vague plan to help Tunisia that involved Saudi and Tunisian business partners. Other times, he wrote positively about President Barack Obama, praising him in a way that individuals with ties to extremist groups do not.
“President Obama you really are a very good man,” he wrote. “If Russia and China will side with the US than you 3 will be the best in the world in all things. From you will the world be able to colonize Mars and Venus.”
The brothers have not been charged and it’s unclear whether they will be sent back to the United States. But in one October post, Nathan wrote that taking him back to America “would be destroying the US and this is not what I want either.”
“I seek to destroy no one,” he added.