Fear justified after arrest of Russian suspect

Besides the personal responsibilities tied to getting a college education, college life also is about meeting and interacting with new people and mixing fun with the serious work at hand.

It’s not about participating in violent or other irresponsible conduct – or engaging in activities that could pose a threat to others.

Nevertheless, we awoke last weekend to the realization that a serious threat to the well-being of people here could have been in the making.

The news has dominated local headlines for the past week.

No one likely ever will know the deepest feelings, curiosities and reactions to family issues or events around the world that led Penn State Altoona industrial engineering student Vladislav Miftakhov to use his Juniata apartment as a bomb-making “laboratory.”

Amid a time of high school and college campus shootings and, in reaction, the no-tolerance policies that have been implemented against possession of firearms or other instruments of violence on or around educational campuses, it’s hard to fathom what caused Miftakhov to risk his college education and possibly a productive and successful life later on by involving himself in an activity that he should have known was wrong.

Perhaps the 18-year-old citizen of Russia’s fascination with bomb-making was innocent – the message he sought to project to authorities after police found already-constructed bombs, plus bomb-making materials, in the apartment building he shared with other campus students.

Police had been attracted to the apartment by information that a marijuana-growing operation existed there.

The search of the apartment found much more – enough to alarm not only the most seasoned Altoona police officers but also evoking serious concerns all the way to Washington, D.C.

Since then, the arrest of Miftakhov, who lists his hometown as San Carlos, Calif., has evolved into a national news story, and no doubt even is attracting international attention.

Although people should avoid passing judgment prematurely on Miftakhov’s motivations and intentions, it’s not hard to fathom why they might be tempted to do otherwise, less than 10 months after two brothers born in republics of the former Soviet Union perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombings, in which three people died and at least 264 others were injured.

That tragic incident might have contributed to why $500,000 cash bail was set for Miftakhov after his arrest, which has been high enough to keep him housed in the Blair County Prison.

Fear that he might flee is justified, considering he came here from California and has maintained his Russian citizenship, having been born in Moscow.

This continues to be a violent world; fears surrounding the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are the latest testimony to that. For many people who have birth ties to Russia – possibly including Miftakhov – conflicts such as the two wars since 1994 involving Russia and its southern republic of Chechnya no doubt prey on their loyalties and thoughts.

The answer to what caused Miftakhov to detour from the usual college experience and start making bombs might never be fully known or understood, but authorities’ reaction to his dangerous preoccupation cannot be questioned.

Last weekend we awoke to the realization that a tragedy here might have been in the making and, had it happened, Altoona and one of its crown jewels, Penn State Altoona, could have suffered unthinkable loss.