US lawmaker's threat to bomb Mecca criticized

AFP
Friday, August 3, 2007

The US State Department denounced Friday a lawmaker's suggestion to threaten an attack on Islamic holy sites in order to deter a nuclear attack on American soil, saying the idea is "absolutely crazy."

"Let me just say that it is absolutely outrageous and reprehensible for anyone to suggest attacks on holy sites -- whether they are Muslim, Christian, Jewish or those of any other religion," Tom Casey, a spokesman for the department, told reporters.

Tom Tancredo, a Republican presidential hopeful, was reported to have said that the best way he could think of to deter a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States was to threaten to retaliate by bombing Islamic holy sites.

"If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina," Tancredo was quoted saying Tuesday in Iowa by a political website, IowaPolitics.com.

"Beyond the loss of human life and devastation, it would cause a worldwide economic collapse," Tancredo said of a nuclear attack on US soil, according to the website.

Tancredo, a five-term Republican congressman from Colorado, is more popularly known for his hardline stand on illegal immigration.

Following the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda terror attacks, the United States is worried about the prospect of terrorists striking again, this time with a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon.

"We and many of our friends, and Muslim friends and allies are all doing what we can to take on extremists and take on terrorism and to somehow suggest that an appropriate response to terrorism would be to attack sites that are holy and sacred to more than a billion people throughout the world is just absolutely crazy," Casey said.

Spokespersons for Tancredo's office could not be immediately contacted, but Casey said the lawmaker's staff had reportedly tried to clarify his comment.

"Certainly, this administration and, for that matter all parties, have always made it very clear that we want to have good, positive relations with countries certainly in the Middle East and broader Muslim world," Casey said.

"Any suggestion that the defense of the American homeland or the defense of American interests would ever justify attacking holy sites or religious sites is just simply an idea that goes against the length or breadth of US history," he said.

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