x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Emirati students in Boston tell of fears in lockdown

Emiratis studying in Boston were on edge yesterday after the city and surrounding areas were placed under a near lockdown during a manhunt for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

ABU DHABI // Emiratis studying in Boston were on edge yesterday after the city and surrounding areas were placed under a near lockdown during a manhunt for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Authorities asked residents to remain indoors after a policeman was shot and killed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus on Thursday night and another injured in a shoot-out overnight in nearby Watertown in which one of the two suspects was killed.

"I woke up to a friend calling me at 6am to caution me to stay home," said Ruba Al Hassan, an Emirati graduate student and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Fellow at the Harvard-JFK School of Government, which is in the same Boston suburb of Cambridge as MIT.

"It's around final exams time for most of us so we were all up quite late trying to study, but watching the news instead since some of my Harvard classmates were at MIT last night and we were concerned about their safety," Ms Al Hassan said.

She and other residents in the area received an email at about 4am that said the school was closed and to stay home. "[They said] to contact Harvard security if we needed an escort to get home safely," she said. "The situation seems really critical."

Yousef Al Hammadi, an Emirati Masdar Institute professor at MIT, was also urged not to go to campus yesterday. He was informed of the closure as he was driving his children to school. "It's crazy and this is making us nervous because we know the suspect is out there," he said. "I really hope it will end soon and people will be safe again."

The 35-year-old researcher at MIT's Sloan School of Management was informed of the incident by email and text message through MIT's alert system. The Masdar Institute's MIT office also contacted him to urge him to stay home.

"The alerts said there were some suspicious packages and shooting, then they said please don't go to class," said Mr Al Hammadi, who has been in Boston for three months.

"Before, I felt safe but, at the moment, it's changed," he said. "We're hoping it will settle. [Boston] is an intellectual city where there is a sense of unity and care."

cmalek@thenational.ae