No sign of missing American University student off Dubai coast

WASHINGTON – The search has intensified, but there’s still no sign of a 35- year-old American University PhD student who was last seen New Year’s Day while spearfishing in the Persian Gulf, off the coast of Dubai.

“The search has gained momentum,” says longtime friend Nadim Majzoub, who tells WTOP he was the last person to see Adel Ait-Ghezala, while the two were underwater, searching for fish to spear.

“They haven’t recovered anything,” says Majzoub.

Ait-Ghezala, his wife, and other experienced divers were on a vacation excursion.

Majzoub says he signaled Ait-Ghezala he was returning to the surface, while his friend was sitting on the bottom of the Gulf.

“I kept my head out of the water, looking for him and waiting for him to pop up. I was expecting him to pop up a minute after me,” recalls Majzoub.

When the dive had reached 5 minutes, Majzoub realized something was wrong.

“I told them this doesn’t look good at all.”

Majzoub says he personally scanned the area from a privately rented chopper Sunday, and had also seen a Dubai Coast Guard chopper searching the coastline.

“We have news that Abu Dhabi has sent choppers out. We also know Iran has sent out three boats to specific areas, and have also sent air rescue to search for him,” says Majzoub.

Ait-Ghezala, who is an Algerian citizen, lives in the District, and is also an adjunct professor at American University, according to the school’s website.

His brother tells the Washington Post Ait-Ghezala has been working on a dissertation about tourism and colonialism in the Persian Gulf.

Because Ait-Ghezala is not a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident, a State Department spokesperson said the agency or the U.S. Navy are unable to handle the case, the Post reports.

While Majzoub is encouraged by the increased activity in the search, the weather may cut that short.

“We have a storm coming in by tomorrow. It’s expected to be windy, wavy, and rainy,” he says.

Friends and family have established a Facebook page to help in raising awareness and donations for the search.

On Twitter and Instagram, the effort is using #FindAdel.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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