Several members of Westbrook’s Muslim community were so terrified by threatening notes left at an apartment complex Wednesday morning that they were unable to sleep that night.

Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts tried to calm those fears by hosting a community meeting at the police station Thursday evening. About 50 members of the refugee community, mostly Iraqis, spent nearly three hours talking in private – the media was excluded – with state and local officials about the anxiety the incident generated and what can be done to protect the immigrant community.

“I feel the community does feel threatened,” Roberts told reporters after the meeting. “Some members of our community have been truly traumatized by this experience.”

Roberts said Iraqi refugees told her that in their former country, the first step toward letting someone know that they were going to be attacked is posting a threatening note on their door or car.

Police said that a male resident of Westbrook Pointe found a typewritten message on Wednesday that said: “All Muslims are Terrorists should be Killed.” Roberts said the hand-cut strip of paper was stuck to the bumper of the man’s vehicle – the bumper was wet from rain.

Two other notes with threatening messages were found in the vicinity of the Iraqi man’s car, while a fourth note was found in a different area of the complex at 26 Prospect St. Detectives interviewed the man Thursday using an Arabic interpreter.

“These four notes, all with the same message, type font, and print, are the only notes confirmed by (Westbrook police) to be in existence,” Roberts wrote in a statement earlier in the day. The messages were on hand-cut strips of paper roughly 2 inches high and 8½ inches wide.

Westbrook police are analyzing the notes for fingerprint and DNA evidence. There were no results as of Thursday evening, Roberts said. The FBI has been made aware of the incident, but is not actively investigating.

“For the people out there who thought this wasn’t much of anything, have some empathy and try to put yourself in their shoes. This had a significant impact on them,” Roberts said at the news conference.

No arrests had been made as of Thursday evening. Roberts said police do not have any witnesses. Roberts believes the incident is a hate bias crime. The person could also face criminal charges of terrorizing.

Roberts said police as well as city and state officials plan to meet more often with the leaders of the refugee community – she suggested meeting in small groups – to try to find a way to prevent hate crimes from occurring.

“We can’t enforce our way out of this problem,” Roberts said. “We need to problem-solve with the community. We need to change the perspective of the people who are committing these crimes.”


Aqeel Mohialdeen, the publisher of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – Maine’s first Arabic language newspaper – said he fled Iraq to come to this country.

“Now, what do we do? Should we escape to another country?” Mohialdeen said after the meeting.

Mohialdeen, who lives in Portland, said the meeting went well, adding that, “People left with a little bit feeling of safety, not like yesterday.”

Many members of the Muslim community felt comforted because public safety officials demonstrated how much they care about their personal safety.

“To me, it’s a good start,” he said.

The Iraqi Community Association of Maine also issued a statement after the meeting.

“What happened on August 17, 2016, is considered as a terrorist threat. Every Muslim in the Westbrook Pointe complex feels targeted now, from oldest to youngest, women and men. The death threats that happened on Wednesday awakes the trauma in people here. This threat is against all of us, it is threatening the safety of all Americans not only Muslim Americans,” said the statement that was signed by Raed Aldoori, the association’s executive director.

Aldoori said his organization trusts the Westbrook Police Department and its ability to protect the Muslim community.

“Just like anyone else who escaped war and death in their countries, left their families and friends behind, seeking peace and a safe place to live in away from the devil of terrorism. Yes, we are afraid again,” the statement said.

Mahmoud Hassan of Portland, president of the Somali Community Center, said he attended Thursday's meeting in Westbrook to show his support. "We must stand against racism and hatred," he said.

Mahmoud Hassan of Portland, president of the Somali Community Center, said he attended Thursday’s meeting in Westbrook to show his support. “We must stand against racism and hatred,” he said.


Mahmoud Hassan of Portland serves as president of the Somali Community Center and came to the meeting to show his support.

“Attacks against one of us, is an attack against all of us,” he said. “We must stand against racism and hatred.”

Sahib Altameemi is an Iraqi refugee who now lives in Westbrook with his wife. He admits he doesn’t understand English all that well, but wanted to come to the meeting to learn more about what Westbrook police will do to protect him. There were interpreters at the meeting.

“People in America are good. The police are good,” he said.

Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton thought the meeting went well and provided the Muslim community with assurances that the city will make their safety a priority. She also heard people saying the incident had deeply troubled them, causing many of them to lose sleep.

“It’s unfortunate that we are living in a time where hate-filled rhetoric and language are common,” Hilton said. “It makes people think that this type of behavior is acceptable.”

Hilton identified Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as one of the leading offenders.

The threats come two days after federal court documents unsealed in Portland revealed that Adnan Fazeli, 38, an Iranian refugee who most recently lived in Freeport became radicalized while living in Maine and then traveled to Turkey to fight with the Islamic State. Fazeli died in a battle against Lebanese forces in that country in 2015.

Fazeli and his family once lived at Westbrook Pointe.

“It is unknown if these threats are connected to the recent media coverage of Adnan Fazeli,” Roberts said in a news release.


She acknowledged that police were aware that Fazeli had lived at the complex for a period of time until 2012, when he and his wife were evicted, according to state court records. No further information on the eviction or Fazeli’s time at the apartment complex was available.

The FBI investigated whether others helped Fazeli with his plans, but closed the investigation without filing any charges.

The news of Fazeli’s death triggered sharp responses from Gov. Paul LePage and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, who criticized the refugee vetting process, and blamed President Obama’s administration for failing to uncover radical Islamic sympathizers.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., which describes itself as the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, issued a statement Thursday about the threatening notes in Westbrook.

“We ask local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate these threats as a hate crime and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” organization spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. “Families that were forced to flee Iraq because of such threats should not be subjected to them in America.”

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