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Akram Mena knew he was in trouble the moment he saw the FBI photograph of a terrorist hijacker suspected of flying a jetliner into the World Trade Center.
Marwan Al-Shehhi bears a striking resemblance to Mena, who until earlier this year had been toiling in anonymity at a New Jersey gas station, trying to make enough money to bring his family here from Egypt. U.S. authorities have said Al-Shehhi piloted United Airlines Flight 175 into the trade center's south tower.
Mena was never taken into custody, but says he was fired from his job as a welder, and the gas station where he used to work is in danger of closing, the owner said. Passers-by have aimed obscene gestures at workers and are still driving up to the pumps asking "Is this where all the terrorists work?"
When the photo of Al-Shehhi appeared, people started calling police, the FBI and newspapers, swearing that the man in the photo was the one who sold them unleaded gas and cigarettes at the Bayville Shell Food Mart.
"As soon as I saw the picture [of Al-Shehhi], I knew there would be trouble," Mena told the Associated Press.
Store owner Magdy Beshara said business is down 75 percent at the station as a result of the backlash. He said if things continue at this rate for another two weeks, he will have to close.
Mena, a relative of Beshara, said he contacted authorities himself to head off what he knew would be inevitable backlash, the report said.
"I called the FBI myself, to let them know who I was," Mena said. "Then I called a newspaper. I was trying to fix the problem."
Mena is now looking for work and doesn't want to leave the United States. "I love this country too much," he said. "I want to spend the rest of my life here. America is the most beautiful country in all the world."