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The bombings in Sri Lanka are unfortunate reminders that from a security standpoint, houses of worship are soft targets. They welcome the young and old as places refuge and faith.

But, the rise in dangerous and lethal attacks is forcing them to become more secure fortresses.

In just the last two years alone, there have been 16 violent attacks on places of worship. Since 2000, there have been 3,195 violent attacks on houses of worship, hitting a peak in 2014.

The High Holy days, for every faith, put police on particularly high alert, because terrorists know they can inflict optimum damage and loss of life.

At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, uniformed officers and automatic rifles greet worshippers. And, following the Sri Lanka Easter bombing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., announced an effort to step up security.

“During these troubling times, we will not be intimidated by cowardly acts of violence and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said.

Congress wasted no time reacting, either.

“These terrorist attacks are a stark reminder that Christians remain the most persecuted and targeted religious group in the world,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, “and that we must redouble our efforts to combat religious persecution.”

Across the country, though, many houses of worship lack resources and knowledge about security. Many are unaware that there are millions of dollars in homeland security grant money that can help fund protection efforts like personnel training, security cameras and metal detectors.

FEMA has a one-stop-shopping website to give religious leaders information on how to make their buildings and worshippers more secure.

SRI LANKA EASTER BOMBING CULPRITS REMAIN ELUSIVE

One security expert said while prevention may be difficult, steps can be taken to minimize the risk of attack. For instance, the members themselves could be an extra layer of security.

Steve Padin of Watchmen’s Academy said: “Part of that line of defense are the ushers and the greeters. They can come in and they can always welcome people with a smile and with the handshake and just had that welcoming environment right there. But also their job is to just watch things that seem a little bit off.”

Alert parishioners may have thwarted a worse scenario in San Diego over the weekend when they spotted what appeared to be an emotionally disturbed woman who walked into the church toting an unloaded gun and carrying a baby.

The other line of defense is to try to prevent an attack from happening in the first place.

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“I tell houses of worship that the outside of the facility needs to be monitored either through camera or else by actual people out there,” Padin said, “because they can usually spot incidents right from the exterior and prevent something from that to escalate.”

The security threat for High Holy days is not over. The Jewish Passover continues through sundown Saturday. And millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world and here in the United States, are just beginning their Holy Week and will celebrate Easter this coming Sunday.

Source: Fox News National

A Wisconsin mother of seven has agreed to plead guilty to trying to plan terrorist attacks on behalf of the Islamic State by distributing information on making explosives and biological weapons.

Federal prosecutors said they’ll hold a news conference Monday to discuss the case of Waheba Issa Dais. She initially pleaded not guilty to two counts of providing material support to terrorists. She changed her plea last month in exchange for prosecutors dropping one of the counts.

Prosecutors say the woman tried to recruit people to carry out attacks for the Islamic State and provided them with information on how to make explosives and poisons.

Court documents say she used hacked social media accounts to discuss possible attacks with self-proclaimed members of the Islamic State. Authorities never connected her to any attack plots.

Dais lives in Cudahy, a city just south of Milwaukee.

Source: Fox News National

The deadly Sri Lankan bomb attacks on Easter Sunday were met with an outpouring of grief and condolences from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the United States.

From President Trump to congressional leaders to the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, the attacks that claimed more than 200 people and injured hundreds of others were immediately condemned across the political spectrum in the U.S.

“The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” Trump tweeted early on Sunday morning. “We stand ready to help!”

POPE CELEBRATES EASTER SUNDAY AMID BLOODSHED IN SRI LANKA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bombings “heartbreaking” for a country that suffered from years of bloody civil war.

“Today’s heartbreaking attacks in Sri Lanka come as the country has worked hard to build a common future after years of war,” Pelosi tweeted. “Our thoughts are with the injured & the families of those killed in today’s Easter Sunday attacks.”

A series of eight bomb blasts rocked churches and luxury hotels in or near Sri Lanka’s capital on Easter Sunday — the deadliest violence the South Asian island country has seen since a bloody civil war ended a decade ago. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said at least 207 people were killed and 450 wounded.

Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the bombings as a terrorist attack by religious extremists and said seven suspects had been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility. He said most of the blasts were believed to have been suicide attacks.

The explosions at three churches and three hotels collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and guests. People were seen carrying the wounded out of blood-spattered pews. Witnesses described powerful explosions, followed by scenes of smoke, blood, broken glass, alarms going off and victims screaming.

“As countless people attend Easter service today, our prayers are with the people of Sri Lanka who lost loved ones in these horrible attacks,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., tweeted. “No person, of any faith, should be fearful in their house of worship.”

The three hotels and one of the churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine, are frequented by foreign tourists. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said the bodies of at least 27 foreigners were recovered and included people from Britain, the U.S., India, Portugal, and Turkey. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says ‘several’ Americans were killed in the attacks, while China’s Communist Party newspaper said two Chinese were killed.

“These attacks demonstrate the brutal nature of terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace & security,” Pompeo said in a tweet.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could trigger instability in Sri Lanka, a country of about 21 million people, and vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to take action against those responsible. The government imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“My prayers are with the people of Sri Lanka this Easter morning,” Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., tweeted. “Heartbreaking sadness on a day that so many celebrate.”

The scale of the bloodshed recalled the worst days of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, in which the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from the Buddhist-majority country. During the war, the Tigers and other rebels carried out a multitude of bombings. The Tamils are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

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Sri Lanka, situated off the southern tip of India, is about 70 percent Buddhist, with the rest of the population Muslim, Hindu or Christian. While there have been scattered incidents of anti-Christian harassment in recent years, there has been nothing on the scale of what happened Sunday.

There is also no history of violent Muslim militants in Sri Lanka. However, tensions have been running high more recently between hard-line Buddhist monks and Muslims.

“Easter is a reminder that there is hope and rebirth even in the darkest of times. We must remember that today, more than ever,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who is running for president in 2020, tweeted. “I am horrified by the attacks in Sri Lanka, where so many families were celebrating such a joyous day. Praying for the victims and their loved ones.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A Canadian man convicted of terrorism for nearly killing a Michigan police officer while yelling “God is great” in Arabic was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday, after boldly declaring that he only regretted not having a machine gun during the knife attack.

Amor Ftouhi’s statements stunned U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman, who said he’d been “wrestling very hard” with a decision about whether to allow the Tunisia native a chance to someday be released from prison.

Leitman said the remarks “persuaded me beyond any shadow of a doubt” that a life term was appropriate for the 51-year-old Ftouhi, who moved to Montreal in 2007.

“He was crystal clear today: If he had the opportunity to kill more people, he would,” the judge said.

Ftouhi drove 1,000 miles from Montreal to the airport in Flint, Michigan, where he repeatedly stabbed Lt. Jeff Neville in the neck in June 2017.

Amor Ftouhi. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Amor Ftouhi. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Investigators said Ftouhi wanted to take Neville’s gun and start shooting people at Bishop Airport. Ftouhi legally entered the U.S. at Champlain, N.Y., and arrived in Flint five days later. He tried but failed to buy a gun at a gun show and instead bought a large knife.

“Do I regret what I did? Never,” Ftouhi told the judge inside a federal courtroom in Flint. “I regret I didn’t get that machine gun. I regret I didn’t kill that cop.”

Ftouhi said he had a good education and many skills but felt discrimination in Canada because he wasn’t a white Christian. He pledged allegiance to his Muslim faith and said western countries and Arabic countries should be cursed if they “don’t rule according to Allah.”

He was convicted in November of terrorism and two other crimes.

Neville survived the attack but has lost feeling on the right side of his face. He retired from the airport police department because of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Police officers gather at Bishop International Airport following the June 21, 2017 attack.

Police officers gather at Bishop International Airport following the June 21, 2017 attack. (Dominic Adams/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)

“He picked the wrong Americans to attack that day,” Neville told Leitman, referring to fellow officers and witnesses who saved him and pounced on Ftouhi. “He should never walk the streets as a free man again.”

Ftouhi’s attorney, Joan Morgan, argued for a 25-year prison sentence in solitary confinement, saying it would effectively be a life term because of Ftouhi’s age. The judge praised Morgan’s work but repeatedly challenged her over the recommendation, especially after Ftouhi’s courtroom remarks.

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Morgan said Ftouhi’s mental health had deteriorated at the time of the attack and has slipped even further during 22 months in custody awaiting trial and sentencing.

“People change. … He is more than what his actions were,” Morgan said.

Source: Fox News National

The suicide of a Florida teenager who authorities say was obsessed with the Columbine shooting and may have planned to carry out her own attack will not end an investigation to determine if she had any accomplices, officials said as Denver schools reopened Thursday and preparations to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy resumed.

The body of 18-year-old Sol Pais was discovered Wednesday in the mountains outside Denver with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after investigators got a tip from a driver who took her there, the FBI said.

Dozens of schools that closed as a precaution during the daylong manhunt reopened their doors with heightened security measures. Events planned to mark the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine attack will go on as scheduled throughout the week, starting with a church service Thursday night and culminating with a ceremony near the school on Saturday.

Two teenagers attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives. They have inspired cult-like admirers, some of whom committed other mass shootings over the decades.

A growing “no notoriety” movement has urged news organizations to avoid naming the perpetrators of mass shootings to deprive them of the notoriety they seek.

The details of Pais’ travel from Florida to Colorado began to emerge Wednesday along with some classmates’ confusion about her involvement. The Miami Beach High School student dressed in black and kept mostly to herself, said Adam Charni, a senior at the school.

He said he was “baffled” to learn Pais was the person authorities in Colorado were seeking. Another classmate, 17-year-old Drew Burnstine, described Pais as quiet and smart.

Dean Phillips, FBI agent in charge in Denver, said Pais had made troubling remarks to others about her “infatuation” with the assault at Columbine and its anniversary. He did not elaborate.

Investigators will try to learn more from Pais’ social media and other online activity, largely to ensure that she had no accessories or accomplices, Phillips said. He confirmed the material being scrutinized includes a blog containing hand-written journal entries that occasionally feature sketches of guns or people holding large firearms.

In Pais’ hometown of Surfside, Police Chief Julio Yero asked that the family be given “privacy and a little time to grieve.” Pais’ parents had reported her missing on Monday night, police said.

“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset,” Yero said. “They provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life.”

Pais had purchased three one-way tickets to Denver on three consecutive days. She arrived Monday night and went directly to a gun store, where she bought a shotgun, authorities said.

They said she did not threaten a specific school. Still, Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver locked their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled or moved evening activities inside.

“We’re used to threats, frankly, at Columbine,” John McDonald, security chief for the Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly had our attention.”

McDonald described Pais’ trip as a “pilgrimage” to Columbine, though she is not believed to have been on the campus.

The threats and response added an emotional burden for many with ties to the Columbine community ahead of the anniversary.

Frank DeAngelis, Columbine’s principal at the time of the shooting, said he was on campus Tuesday when the threat prompted the locking of the doors. He immediately went to check on several staff members who still work there 20 years after the attack.

“The support was so great,” he said. “Everybody came together.”

Denver-area parents faced the difficult job of explaining to their children — without scaring them — why they had the day off school.

“This is definitely a challenge in their generation, and watching my kids learn how to navigate this is really hard. It is really heartbreaking,” said Suzanne Kerns of suburban Arvada, whose children are 8 and 15.

Kerns said she was angry about how easy it was for someone reported missing to come from out of state and buy a gun.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said the sale of the shotgun apparently followed the state’s legal process. Out-of-state residents who are at least 18 can buy shotguns in Colorado. Customers must provide fingerprints and pass a criminal background check.

Pais’ body was found off a trail not far from the base of Mount Evans, a recreation area about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Denver, authorities said. She used the weapon she bought, Phillips said.

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Associated Press writers Ellis Rua in Miami Beach, Florida, and James Anderson and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News National

A Florida teenager who authorities say was obsessed with the Columbine school shooting and may have been planning an attack in Colorado just ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.

The body of 18-year-old high schooler Sol Pais was discovered in the mountains outside Denver with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after investigators got a tip from the driver who took her there, the FBI said.

During the manhunt, Denver-area schools closed as a precaution, with classes and extracurricular activities canceled for a half-million students.

Police and the FBI were tipped off about Pais after the Miami Beach high school student made troubling remarks to others about her “infatuation” with the 1999 bloodbath at Columbine High and this weekend’s anniversary of the 13 killings, said Dean Phillips, FBI agent in charge in Denver. He did not elaborate on what she said.

Pais purchased three one-way tickets to Denver on three consecutive days, then flew in on Monday night and went directly to a gun store, where she bought a shotgun, authorities said.

“We’re used to threats, frankly, at Columbine,” John McDonald, security chief for Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly had our attention.”

McDonald described her trip as a “pilgrimage” to Columbine.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said after receiving word that the hunt was over that he and all Colorado parents are “hugging their children a little tighter.”

In Pais’ hometown, Surfside Police Chief Julio Yero asked that the family be given “privacy and a little time to grieve.” Pais’ parents had reported her missing on Monday night, police said.

“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset. They provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” Yero said.

Authorities said she did not threaten a specific school. But Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver reacted by locking their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled evening activities or moved them inside.

Pais’ body was found off a trail not far from the base of Mount Evans, a recreation area about 60 miles southwest of Denver, authorities said. She used the weapon she bought, Phillips said. She had been last seen in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots.

Sheriff Jeff Shrader said the sale of the shotgun apparently followed the state’s legal process. Out-of-state residents who are at least 18 can buy shotguns in Colorado. Customers must provide fingerprints and pass a criminal background check.

School officials said events planned to mark the anniversary will go on as scheduled, including a ceremony at Columbine on Saturday.

Two teenagers attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives. They have inspired cult-like admirers and motivated other mass shooters over the decades. Since Columbine, a growing “no notoriety” movement has urged news organizations to avoid naming the perpetrators of mass shootings to deprive them of the notoriety they seek.

In Florida, Adam Charni, a Miami Beach High School senior, said Pais dressed in black and kept mostly to herself. He said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for. Another classmate, 17-year-old Drew Burnstine, described Pais as quiet and smart.

Denver-area parents struggled with how to explain to their children why they had the day off school without scaring them.

“This is definitely a challenge in their generation, and watching my kids learn how to navigate this is really hard. It is really heartbreaking,” said Suzanne Kerns, of suburban Arvada, whose children are 8 and 15.

Kerns said she was angry about how easy it was for someone reported missing to come from out of state and buy a gun.

___

Associated Press writers Ellis Rua in Miami Beach, Florida and James Anderson and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News National

A Florida teenager who authorities say was obsessed with the Columbine school shooting and may have been planning an attack of her own in Colorado just days ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said 18-year-old Sol Pais was discovered by the FBI with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The manhunt had led to the closing of Denver-area schools as a precaution, with classes and extracurricular activities canceled for a half-million students.

During the urgent search, the FBI said Pais was “infatuated” with the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School and made threats against the Denver area ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the attack that killed 13 people.

The Miami Beach high school student flew to Colorado on Monday night and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition from a gun shop in Littleton, not far from Columbine, authorities said. The FBI described her as “extremely dangerous.”

“We’re used to threats, frankly, at Columbine,” John McDonald, executive director of security for the Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly had our attention.”

Her body was found off a trail not far from the base of Mount Evans, a popular recreation area about 60 miles southwest of Denver, authorities said.

McDonald described her trip as a “pilgrimage” to Columbine and cited her purchase of the shotgun as one reason officials took her as a serious threat.

“Those two things combined with her fascination of Columbine — that’s pretty clear and convincing evidence that she was a threat to the school,” he said.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said after receiving word that the hunt was over that he and all Colorado parents are “hugging their children a little tighter.”

Authorities said Pais was last seen not far from Columbine — in the Jefferson County foothills outside Denver — in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots. Police were instructed to detain her for a mental health evaluation.

The sheriff said the sale of the shotgun apparently followed the state’s legal process. Out-of-state residents who are at least 18 can legally buy shotguns in Colorado. Gun buyers must provide fingerprints and pass a criminal background check.

In Pais’ hometown, Surfside Police Chief Julio Yero asked that the family be given “privacy and a little time to grieve.”

“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset. They provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” he said.

Pais’ parents last saw her on Sunday and reported her missing to Florida authorities on Monday night, Surfside police said.

Authorities gave no details on her threats but said she did not single out a specific school. Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver reacted by locking their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled evening activities or moved them inside.

Jefferson County school officials said events planned to mark the anniversary this weekend will go on as scheduled, including a ceremony at Columbine on Saturday.

Two teenage gunmen attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives. They have inspired cult-like admirers and motivated other mass shooters over the decades. Since Columbine, a growing “no notoriety” movement has urged news organizations to avoid naming the perpetrators of mass shootings to deprive them of the notoriety they seek.

Adam Charni, a Miami Beach High School senior, said Pais dressed in black and kept mostly to herself. He said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for. Another classmate, 17-year-old Drew Burnstine, described Pais as quiet and smart.

Denver-area parents struggled with how to explain to their children why they had the day off school without scaring them.

“This is definitely a challenge in their generation, and watching my kids learn how to navigate this is really hard. It is really heartbreaking,” said Suzanne Kerns, of suburban Arvada, whose children are 8 and 15.

Kerns said she was angry about how easy it was for someone reported missing to come from out of state and buy a gun.

___

Associated Press writers Ellis Rua in Miami Beach, Florida and James Anderson and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News National

A young Florida woman who traveled to Colorado and bought a shotgun for what authorities feared would be a Columbine-inspired attack just days ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said 18-year-old Sol Pais was discovered by the FBI with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The manhunt had led to the closing of Denver-area schools as a precaution.

During the manhunt, the FBI said Pais was “infatuated” with Columbine and made threats ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the attack that killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999. The FBI described her “extremely dangerous.”

The Miami Beach high school student flew to Colorado on Monday night and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, authorities said.

“We deal with a lot of threats at Columbine,” John McDonald, executive director of security for the Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly got our attention.”

Agents had focused the search around the base of Mount Evans, a popular recreational area about 60 miles southwest of Denver.

All classes and extracurricular activities for about a half-million students were canceled as a precaution, though sheriff’s spokesman Mike Taplin said the young woman’s threats were general and not specific to any school.

Authorities said Pais was last seen not far from Columbine — in the Jefferson County foothills outside Denver — in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots. Police were instructed to detain her for a mental health evaluation.

In Pais’ hometown of Surfside, Florida, Police Chief Julio Yero asked that the family be given “privacy and a little time to grieve.”

“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset. They provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” he said.

Pais’ parents last saw her on Sunday and reported her missing to Florida authorities on Monday night, Surfside police said.

Because of the threats, Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver locked their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled evening activities or moved them inside.

Adam Charni, a Miami Beach High School senior, said Pais dressed in black and kept mostly to herself. He said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for.

Two teenage gunmen attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives.

___

Associated Press writers Ellis Rua in Miami Beach, Florida and James Anderson and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News National

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says the U.S. decision to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization is a dangerous development that could lead to chaos.

Cavusoglu spoke on Wednesday at a joint news conference with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He also said U.S. sanctions were harming the people of Iran.

Zarif arrived in Turkey after visiting Syria where he met President Bashar Assad. Russia, Iran and Turkey, which back rival groups in Syria’s conflict, have been sponsoring talks in Kazakhstan to try to end the war.

Zarif said he would tell Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about his talks with Assad, adding that Iran wants to help Turkey and Syria establish “good relations.”

The U.S. designation adds another layer of sanctions on the powerful paramilitary force.

Source: Fox News National

A Coast Guard officer accused of stockpiling guns and compiling a hit list of prominent Democrats and network TV journalists is seeking his release from federal custody since prosecutors haven’t charged him with any terrorism-related offenses.

Christopher Hasson has remained in custody since his Feb. 15 arrest and subsequent indictment in Maryland on firearms and drug charges. His attorney is Liz Oyer. Oyer wrote in a Monday letter that prosecutors recently informed the court they don’t expect to seek any additional charges.

In a court filing, prosecutors called Hasson a “domestic terrorist” and said he “intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”

In February, a magistrate judge ordered Hasson detained but said he was willing to revisit his decision if prosecutors didn’t bring more serious charges.

Source: Fox News National


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