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A Toledo native's ex-husband was named a 'person of interest' in the 9/11 attacks; 20 years later, she shares her story

Jennifer Dahmani's ex-husband was arrested on Nov. 7, 2001. To this day, she and her now 19-year-old daughter believe he was a victim of racial profiling.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Jennifer Dahmani is an all-American woman; born and raised in Toledo, she fell in love with a man she met in Arizona. 

The pair started as friends, then they met each other's friends.

It wasn't until months later she would learn that some of those friends were accused of training the hijackers who carried out the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

"So it was August when we were invited to his friend's, Sofiane Laimeche,  who was also arrested later on," Dahmani said.

On September 11, 2001,19 militants hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against the United States.

It was a day that changed lives forever, including Jennifer's.

"I remember getting up and my best friend calls me and she said, 'Turn on the TV,' and I turn on the TV and she goes, 'Dude, we're going to go to war.' That's when the second plane hit the tower. I remember sitting there, like, speechless," Dahmani said.

Around that time, Jennifer's relationship was going downhill. She decided to head back to Toledo to visit close friends and family before her due date.

That's when the man she fell in love with gave her a second shock of a lifetime. 

"That morning when I was getting ready, the news was on and he was in the other room and like popped up real quick and he said, 'Oh my god. I lived with him,' and I said, 'Who?' Lotfi Raissi," Dahmani said.

Jennifer's husband, Redouane Dahmani, said he used to live with Raissi. He told her the FBI wanted him to take a polygraph test.

A couple of weeks after the test, government vehicles surrounded them at their home.

"As soon as we started to back up, there were 20+ unmarked cars surrounding our car and holding guns," Jennifer said.

She packed her bags and saw her husband in person for the last time.

The FBI searched her apartment and found evidence that made Redouane a  "person of interest."

"Our apartment, they had found some flight manuals and some headsets. They also found another name that he used to use overseas," Jennifer said.

Police found Redouane's name in a phonebook belonging to a man accused of planning to bomb the Los Angeles airport. That led federal agents to arrest Redouane on Nov. 7, around the same time Jennifer was about to go into labor.

"My water had just broke and she went to go put on her scrubs and the news media comes in my room. It was very traumatic. They invaded my privacy and they had asked me how I felt about my husband's arrest," she said.

Jennifer gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Baya. However, it wasn't a normal delivery.

Security personnel watched the room, keeping a close eye for any potential threats to Baya or her mom.

"People were calling her a terrorist baby," Jennifer said.

At just three years old, Baya said goodbye to her father. He was deported on March 30, 2004.

"I feel like anybody to call me a terrorist baby, it's definitely hurtful but at the end of the day, this all happened before I was born," Baya Dahmani said.

As the world remembers the terror that struck the United States 20 years ago, Baya nears her 20th birthday.

Both she and her mother believe to this day that Redouane Dahmani is a victim of racial profiling.

However, the U.S. government found during a search for evidence related to 9/11 that he committed identity theft and fraud which led to his deportation to his home country of Algeria.

While the events of Sept. 11, 2001, forever changed us as a people, the attacks also changed the lives of Arab-Americans facing racism for the past 20 years.

"I should never have to be ashamed of who I am in my own skin and I feel like as an Arab woman, you're different and unique in a way, and just being comfortable in your own skin is just, like, the most amazing and fulfilling thing ever. I am actually proud to be an Arab woman," Baya said.

Redouane is no longer allowed to enter the United States and his daughter Baya has not been in contact with her father for several years.


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