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UNC Pit Suspect Claims Quran Supports His Actions

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In recent letters sent to news media, Mohammed Taheri-azar, 22, called an attack on nine people on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill revenge for America's treatment of Muslims and that the assault was justified based on his reading of Islam's holy book."Allah gives permission in the Koran for the followers of Allah to attack those who have raged war against them, with the expectation of eternal paradise in case of martyrdom," Mohammed Taheri-azar wrote in a two-page letter sent to a TV station in Durham.

Taheri-azar is charged with nine counts of attempted murder and nine counts of assault. On March 3, police say, Taheri-azar raced through a crowded campus gathering spot in a rented Jeep Cherokee. No one was seriously injured, and Taheri-azar later called 911 to turn himself in. During the call, he said he wanted to "punish the government of the United States for their actions around the world."

On Wednesday, Triangle Muslims held a press conference in which they condemned Taheri-azar's actions.

The groups said one individual out to promote his own agenda cannot speak for 1.3 billion Muslims around the world. They also emphasized that the book promotes unity and the sanctity of life.

A native of Iran who grew up mostly in the Charlotte area, Taheri-azar has said he intended to kill the people he struck. He said he wants to defend himself in court and believes a trial will offer him the opportunity to educate people about the will of Allah.

Taheri-azar is expected to appear in court on Thursday.

"The U.S. government is responsible for the deaths of and the torture of countless followers of Allah, my brothers and sisters," he wrote in the letter, dated Friday. In it, Taheri-azar added he started reading the Quran in June 2003 and has read it 15 times since.

"My attack on Americans at UNC-CH on March 3rd was in retaliation for similar attacks orchestrated by the U.S. government on my fellow followers of Allah in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and other Islamic territories. I did not act out of hatred for Americans, but out of love for Allah instead," he wrote.

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group based in Washington, said Taheri-azar's claims of religious support for his actions are an old and repudiated claim.

"Islamic scholars have clearly and repeatedly stated that attacks on innocent civilians of any kind are prohibited by Islam and should be repudiated," spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said Tuesday.

"There are people who have strange views about any number of faiths and they shouldn't be taken as representative of those faiths. The people who kill abortion doctors claim they are doing it in the name of Christianity and we all know it is a distortion of Christian beliefs," he said.

Terrorism experts said Taheri-azar fits the description of a burgeoning type of terrorist -- a lone actor unaffiliated with any organization.

"In this world of global terrorism, you don't have ties back to any particular group," Solomon Bradman, chief executive officer of the Miami-based Security Solutions International, told The News & Observer of Raleigh in a story published Tuesday.

"In this new world, terror comes from incitement -- it doesn't come from an organization," Bradman said. "The only thing that makes this not look like a terrorist act is that he did a lousy job of it."

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