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A major U.S. Muslim group cancels Virginia banquet over bomb and death threats

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) national executive director Nihad Awad speaks during a news conference, Jan. 30, 2017, in Washington.
Alex Brandon
/
AP
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) national executive director Nihad Awad speaks during a news conference, Jan. 30, 2017, in Washington.

ARLINGTON, Va. — A national Muslim civil rights group said Thursday it is moving its annual banquet out of a Virginia hotel that received bomb and death threats possibly linked to the group's concern for Palestinians caught in the Israel-Hamas war.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, canceled plans to hold its 29th annual banquet on Saturday at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The group, which has used the hotel for a decade, will move the banquet to an undisclosed location with heightened security, the group's statement said.

"In recent days, according to the Marriott, anonymous callers have threatened to plant bombs in the hotel's parking garage, kill specific hotel staff in their homes, and storm the hotel in a repeat of the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol if the events moved forward," the statement said.

Arlington police said in an email that the department was investigating a Thursday morning report from the hotel that it received anonymous phone calls, "some referencing threats to bomb," regarding the CAIR event.

Emails seeking comment from the FBI, which CAIR said also is investigating, and the Marriott hotel chain were not immediately answered late Thursday night.

A separate banquet planned for Oct. 28 in Maryland also was cancelled and will be merged with Saturday's event, CAIR said.

The threats came after CAIR updated banquet programming to focus on human rights issues for Palestinians. The group has started an online campaign urging members of Congress to promote a ceasefire in Gaza.

"We strongly condemn the extreme and disgusting threats against our organization, the Marriott hotel and its staff," CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad, who is Palestinian American, said in a statement. "We will not allow the threats of anti-Palestinian racists and anti-Muslim bigots who seek to dehumanize the Palestinian people and silence American Muslims to stop us from pursuing justice for all."

Hamas militants from the blockaded Gaza Strip stormed into nearby Israeli towns on Oct. 7, which coincided with a major Jewish holiday. The attack killed hundreds of civilians. Since then, Israel has launched airstrikes on Gaza, destroying entire neighborhoods and killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

There have been concerns the war will inspire violence in the U.S. Last week, police in major cities increased patrols, authorities put up fencing around the U.S. Capitol and some schools closed. But law enforcement officials stressed there were no credible threats in the U.S.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
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