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Originally published May 2, 2011 at 7:35 PM | Page modified May 2, 2011 at 8:03 PM

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Police in state reach out to Muslim leaders

Amid the talk of possible retaliation by terrorists for the killing of Osama bin Laden, Seattle-area police kept an eye on local mosques Monday and reassured Muslim leaders that they have somewhere to turn if they fear anti-Islamic sentiment could turn to violence.

The Associated Press

quotes Violence BY Muslims seems a much more realistic threat. I'm still waiting for my cal... Read more

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Amid the talk of possible retaliation by terrorists for the killing of Osama bin Laden, Seattle-area police kept an eye on local mosques Monday and reassured Muslim leaders that they have somewhere to turn if they fear anti-Islamic sentiment could turn to violence.

Arsalan Bukhari, the executive director of the Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Seattle police told him they were stepping up patrols around sensitive areas, including mosques and government buildings

A Bellevue police major urged his officers to keep a heightened awareness around mosques and other public spaces. Across the state, Pullman police Sgt. Dan Hargraves said officers were being "extra-vigilant" in watching for threats to the city's mosque, along a busy street near the Washington State University campus.

"We don't have officers stationed at every mosque, but if there was any concern expressed, we'd be there in a heartbeat," said Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb. "We are absolutely sensitive to the significance and enormity of what happened in Islamabad yesterday, and we rely on the excellent relationship we have to with the Muslim community to ensure that people feel safe."

Officials were monitoring for incidents such as one in Portland, Maine, on Monday, when someone scrawled graffiti reading "Osama today, Islam tomorrow" and "go home" on the city's largest mosque.

The crime echoed one that occurred in Seattle's Northgate neighborhood a day after the Sept. 11 attacks, when a man poured gasoline outside the Idriss mosque in an attempt to set it on fire — an incident that prompted residents of the area to spend the next three months standing round-the-clock volunteer watches there.

The Seattle Police Department set up its Arab-Muslim-Sikh advisory council in 2002 to improve relations with the local community.

Adnan Bakkar, a trustee at the Idriss mosque, said Monday he hadn't yet spoken with Seattle police, because he didn't really need to.

"They are protecting us as citizens more than as a mosque," he said.

News of bin Laden's death was welcomed in the state with cautious excitement, as it was elsewhere in the U.S.

"I thanked the Lord. I'm thinking it's all over," said Carroll Fisher, a retired Air Force member, outside a popular diner near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. "But you know, will Osama's underlings carry on? They must have a mission if anything happens to Osama. That's what we're all fearing — if they will come to U.S. shores one way or another."

Former Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay, who prosecuted would-be millennium bomb suspect Ahmed Ressam and now teaches a terrorism class at Seattle University Law School, said Monday that there was little chance of a retaliatory attack in Washington state. Ressam, who had trained at al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan, was arrested in December 1999 when he drove off a ferry in Port Angeles with a trunk full of explosives.

"Al-Qaida and its affiliates are known for careful planning — they're on a three- to five-year plan," he said. "They could advance something that was already in the works. But if it was in Seattle, it would more likely be a lone-wolf, not something well planned. But I don't think there's a network out there that's that nimble, because the world's looking for them and apparently we can get them."

Nicholas K. Geranios contributed from Spokane. Elaine Thompson contributed from Seattle, and Ted Warren contributed from Lakewood.

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