U.S. Beefs up 4th July Security As American Muslims Keep Low Profile During Events Marking the Occasion

U.S. Beefs up 4th July Security As American Muslims Keep Low Profile During Events Marking the Occasion
HIGHLIGHTSBiggest Security Operation of its Kind on the Occasion Follows Warning that Terror Groups Might Strike||Reassurances By Top Officials Including President Bush Himself Fall on Deaf Years, Poll Says||American Muslims Fear Being Racially Profiled By Security Officials as Well as By Ordinary Citizens|| STORY: Military jets are set to patrol the skies, while thousands of extra police, troops and FBI agents are deployed across the United States to protect Americans celebrating Independence Day. (Read photo captions)

It is the biggest security operation ever mounted on a Fourth of July and follows a warning that terror groups might try to stage attacks to coincide with the holiday, nearly 10 months after the devastating attacks of 11 September.

On the eve of Independence Day, the White House sought to reassure the American public, describing the measures as precautionary and saying there had been no specific threats.

President George W Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, urged Americans to celebrate the holiday as usual.

But more than half of Americans believe an attack is likely, according to a poll published by the magazine Newsweek last week.


Many Muslims say they will be keeping a low profile on Independence Day, avoiding large public gatherings for fear they'll be mistaken for a terrorist by edgy law enforcement officers or suspicious citizens.

"As a Muslim, especially during this specific holiday, I have a concern of being racially profiled by the police and the federal agents," said Mohamed El Filali, an official with the American Muslim Union based in nearby Paterson.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks carried out by Islamic extremists, Filali's fears are being expressed by Muslims throughout the United States - particularly in light of nonspecific warnings of possible attacks timed to coincide with America's Independence Day.

Muslims, and particularly Arab-Americans, are deeply concerned about how they are perceived this July 4, said Ra'id Faraj, a spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American Relations of Southern California.


On Tuesday, the US State Department said it had "credible" information that terrorists were planning imminent attacks against American targets around the world.

Attacks could include suicide missions and kidnappings, and US citizens and officials have been warned to be on their guard.

Terrorists could turn to soft targets - such as churches, restaurants and clubs - as security is intensified at higher-profile places, officials said.

The Homeland Security Council will monitor more than 2,000 events throughout the country, staying in touch with officials on the ground, Mr. Fleischer said.

"A variety of actions are being taken on the ground in terms of greater resources, greater surveillance, greater protection, greater prevention," he added.

As well as patrolling the skies above America's major cities, forces have been deployed to protect power stations, water supplies, bridges, tunnels and airports.

The measures also include a new network of security cameras to monitor crowds in front of Capitol Hill, and special security checkpoints for those wanting to watch New York's traditional fireworks display.


In Afghanistan, US forces are preparing to hold low-key celebrations with barbecues, volleyball and music, but no fireworks.

Security around the perimeter of Bagram air base, their Afghan headquarters, will be tightened.

In Asia, Americans also plan to celebrate the holiday with a mix of official receptions, parties and picnics, under the shadow of increased security.

"When we gather together as Americans... I am sure that this year's event will carry special meaning," Roy Tomizawa, a New York teacher in Bangkok, Thailand, told Reuters news agency.


(Top) Hollister Police captain Bob Brooks gestures as he thinks about the biker rally on the fourth of July weekend, at police headquarters in Hollister, Calif., Wednesday, June 26, 2002. Fifty-five years ago, a brawl at a motorcycle gathering in this Central California farm town inspired the Marlon Brando film "The Wild One" and cemented the image of the outlaw biker in American lore. Over the July 4th weekend, an army of law officers will be on hand to make sure the Hollister Independence Rally, which marks that long-ago dustup, doesn't turn into a repeat of the lethal violence that rocked a similar event in Laughlin, Nev., in April 2002. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

(Bottom) American Muslim Council Executive Director Eric Erfan Vickers, right, introduces FBI Director Robert Mueller prior to Mueller's address to the Council's convention in Alexandria, Va. Friday, June 28, 2002. Mueller told the convention they have provided "substantive assistance" in investigating terrorism since Sept. 11, including key help translating for suspects who speak Arabic. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
- Jun 28 3:02 PM ET

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