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California man charged with threatening to kill Muslims

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CALIFORNIA: A California man has been charged with making terrorist threats against a Muslim center and posting hateful messages on social media, authorities said Tuesday.

Mark Lucian Feigin, 40, was arrested last week after calling the Islamic Center of Southern California and threatening to kill Muslims, officer Liliana Preciado of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) told AFP.

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She said Feigin is suspected of having called the center on September 19 and leaving a hate-filled message. He called again the following day, when he spoke to an employee and threatened to kill Muslims, Preciado said.

A search of his home in Agoura Hills, a city northwest of Los Angeles, turned up five rifles, a shotgun, seven pistols and more than 250 pounds (113 kilograms) of ammunition, including modified high-capacity magazines, she added.

“The right to free speech is a hallmark of our society,” Commander Horace Frank, of the LAPD’s Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, told a news conference. “But that right is not and cannot be unabated.

“Mr. Feigin broke the law when he threatened the lives of the individuals at the Islamic Center.”

Omar Ricci, chairman of the Islamic Center, told AFP that staff became concerned after Feigin, who he said works in real estate, posted a message on the center’s Facebook page in September and then followed up with the threatening calls.

“Generally speaking, the threats were against the religion of Islam, the Muslim community,” he said. “And it was enough to cause fear in the person that was taking the call.”

Feigin, who was released on $75,000 bail, could not be reached for comment and it was unclear if he had an attorney.

He is due to appear in court on November 10 and faces up to four years in prison if found guilty.

Ricci said the center has had to boost security in the wake of the threats and rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.

“There will be armed guards at the center for the foreseeable future,” he said.

‘Toxicity toward Muslims’

Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest level since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, according to a report published earlier this year by researchers at California State University, San Bernardino.

The surge has been attributed to last year’s terror attacks in Paris, Brussels and the California city of San Bernardino, as well as anti-Muslim rhetoric during the US presidential campaign.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and for a national registry of Muslims in the country.

Ricci said he has noticed a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment that has spread fear among the community that numbers about half a million in Southern California.

“In the United States today there is a certain toxicity toward Muslims being generated by a certain presidential candidate,” Ricci said, referring to Trump. “And that toxicity is finding comfort with people who have ignorance of Islam and Muslims.”

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