The FBI warns extremists could retaliate against a planned Quran burning in Florida this weekend.
Agents released an intelligence bulletin with high confidence, “due to credible threat information from FBI human and open sources as well as the historical significance of this event type.”
Gainesville Pastor Terry Jones planned to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary by burning a Quran. Despite intense opposition to cancel the event, he says he has no intention of backing down. His internet provider recently pulled both church websites. Jones said, “We feel that is an indirect of course violation of our freedom of expression -- freedom of speech, because they are trying to shut us down.”
Religious leaders nationwide have weighed in on the meaning and consequences of the event. Wednesday night, members of a Silver Spring, Md., mosque sponsored an interfaith dialogue to demonstrate their commitment to peace.
“This is a great country where we have freedom of religion and freedom of expression, freedom to practice our faith, we can build mosques, all these things are there," Nassem Mahdi of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA said. "But because of these things, that beautiful atmosphere is being destroyed.”
He said this weekend’s burning will only give radicals more ammunition against the United States.
“I hope in the end common sense will prevail and he will not do it,” Mahdi said.
The imam said radical extremists compose a tiny fraction of the world's Muslim community, but burning the Koran will hurt the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims.
The Pentagon fears the event will endanger U.S. troops and the State Department has asked every U.S. embassy to assess security.
The first section of the FBI bulletin reads as follows: “While the FBI has no information to indicate a specific attack has been planned against the United States or US assets in response to the “International Burn a Koran Day” event, the FBI assesses with high confidence that, as with past incidents perceived as acts of desecration against Islam, extremists actors will continue to threaten or attempt to harm the leaders, organizers or attendees (of) the event, scheduled for 6:00-9:00 pm on 11 September 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. Depending on the continued national and international publicity of the event received, it may also inspire retaliatory attacks against US facilities overseas.”
FBI officials noted that in July two online threats were posted on extremist websites. One mentioned a suicide attack on the Gainesville church, the other about killing Americans in general.
They are also careful to say bulletins of this nature are standard operating procedure.