Police in the United Arab Emirates have arrested a woman they say is behind the stabbing death of an American teacher and a separate plot to bomb another American’s house, a top official said Thursday as authorities moved swiftly to calm fears of instability in the normally peaceful Gulf nation.
Interior Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also deputy prime minister, said the attacker targeted her victims based on their nationality alone in an attempt to create chaos and terrorize the country. He called the stabbing of the woman, who previously lived in Colorado, a crime that is “alien to our secure country.”
“The victim of this brutal crime was a schoolteacher who was committed to building strong future generations,” he told reporters.
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Word of the gruesome killing, which left a trail of blood in a public restroom at an Abu Dhabi mall, has rattled the Emirates, a Western-allied, seven-state Gulf federation that includes the glitzy commercial hub of Dubai.
Violent crime and terrorist attacks are rare in the oil-rich country, which is home to a large foreign-born population that far outnumbers Emirati citizens.
Police say the teacher was stabbed to death by a butcher’s knife-wielding attacker shrouded in the full black veil commonly worn by women throughout the Gulf Arab region. Emirati authorities identified the victim by the initials I.R. and said she was 47 years old.
The company that placed the victim in the Abu Dhabi teaching job, Vancouver, British Columbia-based Footprints Recruiting, gave her name as Ibolya Ryan. Managing Director Ben Glickman told the Associated Press she started teaching in the country last August or September and hoped to continue working in there.
“She was really a kind and enthusiastic person, and she was really enjoying her time over there,” Glickman said.
Ryan taught in Colorado before moving to the Emirates, according to Glickman. She worked at Palmer Elementary School in Denver from 1997 to 2003, Denver public schools spokesman Doug Schepman said Thursday. Colorado records show Ryan had a license to teach in Colorado that was issued in December 2012 and that she was trained to work with special education students with moderate needs.
On a Footprints Recruiting webpage, Ryan describes herself as a Hungarian originally born and raised in neighboring Romania who trained as a teacher in the U.S. and Europe. She urged those considering teaching abroad to “be positive, open minded, flexible and take every challenge as a learning experience. “
Ildiko Gubanyi, a friend of Ryan in Denver, said “she had a simple, charming and sweet personality, made friends easily and was helpful to everyone.” Gubanyi said she had known Ryan since moving from Hungary to the U.S. 14 years ago.
“When I moved to Denver, Ibi was the first to welcome me as a friend and show me around this world,” Gubanyi said, adding that Ryan was active in the Hungarian community in Denver and organized holiday activities for children.
After carrying out the murder at the Boutik Mall on the capital’s upscale Reem Island, Ryan’s attacker left a makeshift bomb at the house of a 46-year-old Egyptian-American doctor in the prominent waterfront Corniche area, according to Emirati authorities.
One of the doctor’s sons discovered the device as he headed out for sunset prayers at a local mosque, and police were able to dismantle it before it could cause any damage, the interior minister said.
Police released a video that included CCTV footage showing the alleged attacker dragging a small suitcase that apparently contained the bomb into a building lobby. The police video also included footage of the woman’s arrest following a police raid at a villa.
The bomb, which authorities described as primitive, included small gas cylinders, a lighter, glue and nails.
David Duerden, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said the mission is working with all appropriate authorities to gather further information and is in contact with the victim’s family to provide consular assistance.
Police earlier said the victim had 11-year-old twins and that they were being kept in protective custody until their father, who is the victim’s ex-husband, arrives in the country.
The Emirates, an increasingly popular tourist destination that is home to the world’s tallest skyscraper and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix auto race, is a safe haven in the turbulent Middle East.
It is one of the more prominent Arab members of the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. American and other Western allies rely on air bases in the country, and Emirati fighter pilots have carried out multiple missions as part of the bombing campaign.
Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin in Denver and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed reporting.