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Apology after detainee remarks

A lawmaker referred to the 'savage religion' of terrorism suspects. Also, prison funding clears a Senate hurdle.

November 18, 2009|Katherine Skiba and Richard Simon

WASHINGTON — An Illinois congressman who opposes the idea of moving terrorism suspects to a prison in his district issued a qualified apology Tuesday after a comment that critics viewed as insulting to Islam.

In an interview with television station WREX in Rockford, Ill., Republican Rep. Donald Manzullo said of terrorism suspects: "These are really, really mean people whose job it is to kill people, driven by some savage religion."

An aide said Tuesday that Manzullo, who opposes the possibility of housing detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois, received about 20 complaints about the remark. The Obama administration has identified Thomson as a possible site for the detainees.

In a statement, Manzullo said he was not referring generally to Islam, but to terrorists who practice a violent, anti-modern version of Islam. He said Islam is a "religion of peace" and that the vast majority of its adherents are "men and women of goodwill."

He added: "Nevertheless, I apologize for any misunderstanding of my comments, and I will endeavor in the future to clarify my remarks to make it absolutely clear that America is not opposed to Islam, but that we are fighting terrorists who believe in a savage, perverted and violent form of Islam."

Also Tuesday, the Democratic-controlled Senate thwarted an effort to block spending to upgrade facilities in the United States for prisoners from Guantanamo, a proposal that Illinois officials feared could have complicated efforts to place detainees at a prison in their state.

The measure was defeated on a mostly party-line vote, 57 to 43.

Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) proposed the restriction as an amendment to a spending bill for military construction and veterans programs, telling his colleagues, "If you want terrorists here, then vote against this amendment."

But Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, contended that the amendment would "actually make us less secure by restricting our ability to improve security at facilities" housing detainees who are sent to the United States for trial.

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kskiba@tribune.com

richard.simon@latimes.com

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