WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2001, (AP)--American Muslim groups said Tuesday that U.S. retaliation for last week's terrorist attacks should target only those established by evidence as directly responsible.

Any other course ``may lead to the increase of anti-American sentiments and extremism, which are the salient factors in terrorism,'' said Shaker Elsayed, secretary general of the Muslim American Society.

``We join all other Americans in our unequivocal condemnation of the attacks as un-Islamic, barbaric and inhumane,'' he said. ``We also want to point out that retaliation ... is a must.''

But Elsayed and the leaders of several other groups representing Muslim Americans warned that the United States should first present to the world ``internationally accepted factual legal evidence beyond reasonable doubt'' of the terrorists' identity.

Any nation suspected of harboring the suspected terrorists should then be given a deadline for surrendering them before becoming the target of a U.S. attack, Elsayed said. And any U.S. military action should be limited to those directly involved in the attacks, their accomplices and their network of associates, he said.

``Justice should be done,'' said Naim Baig, secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America. ``We do not want killing of civilians and innocent people.'' ``There is no provision in Islam for attacking innocent civilians, period,'' Elsayed said.

Abdulwahab Alkebsi, executive director of the Islamic Institute in Washington, said the United States risks losing an international coalition supporting its anti-terrorist campaign if it does not take such precautions.

The leaders also repeated their fears that Americans of Middle Eastern descent and Muslims - as well as those who just appear to be Arab or Muslim - are being singled out for threats and beatings in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has been identified as the prime suspect behind the attacks.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has, since last Tuesday, opened at least 40 hate crime investigations into such reported attacks, including two killings possibly motivated by anti-Arab sentiment.

Between 100 and 700 of the more than 5,000 believed to have perished are Muslims and Arabs, noted Raeed Tayeh with the United Association for Studies and Research. .

Several leaders accused the FBI of violating Muslims' civil rights as it investigates the suicide bombings. Agents have gone to mosques around the country demanding access to congregations during worship services and coerced cooperation by threatening the involvement of immigration officials, said Stanley Cohen, a civil rights attorney from New York.

``I accuse the FBI of systematically violating the rights of people of color, of Muslims, and undocumented, as they say, aliens,'' Cohen said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said Monday the agency is aggressively pursuing any violations of federal hate-crimes laws and is not targeting people for questioning based only on ethnicity.

``Vigilante attacks and threats against Arab-Americans will not be tolerated,'' he said.

``When we seek to interview and question an individual, we are doing so based on predications that the individual may have information relating to the acts that took place last week. We do not, have not, will not target people based solely on their ethnicity, period, point blank.''
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