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Friday 9 December 2016

Hillary Clinton: US needs '360-degree anti-terror strategy'

Published 16/12/2015 | 03:01

Hillary Clinton has set out her anti-terrorism strategy (AP)
Hillary Clinton has set out her anti-terrorism strategy (AP)

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has laid out a multi-pronged strategy to protect America and prevent domestic terror attacks, saying the American people "cannot give in to fear" in the aftermath of the deadly Paris and California attacks.

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Mrs Clinton assailed her Republican rivals shortly before their latest presidential debate, telling an audience at the University of Minnesota that another ground war reminiscent of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan would play into the hands of the Islamic State (IS) group and fail to keep the US safe.

"Shallow slogans don't add up to a strategy," she said.

"Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn't make you sound strong, it makes you sound like you are in over your head," she added, referring to recent comments by Texas senator Ted Cruz, a leading Republican presidential candidate.

"Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander in chief."

Mrs Clinton sought to assure Americans that she would protect the nation and prevent home-grown terrorists from sprouting following deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, incidents that have thrust terrorism to the forefront of the presidential campaign.

Much of her critique was aimed at Republican front-runner Donald Trump, whose call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States has sparked debate around the world.

Her strategy includes proactive steps for curbing IS recruitment in the US, especially online, and for stopping potential jihadists from training overseas. She also urged that the US take steps to stop foreign fighters from entering the country, discover and disrupt plots before they can be carried out, work more closely with law enforcement agencies and empower Muslim-American communities.

"This is a 360-degree strategy to keep America safe," Mrs Clinton said. She also reiterated her support for new restrictions on guns, saying it was "time to restore the ban on assault weapons", a law first passed by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, which expired during the Bush administration.

She also emphasised a need for vigilance, stressing that the country needed to be prepared for more terror plots.

Hours before her speech, officials in Los Angeles closed all schools after an emailed threat regarding a large-scale attack with guns and bombs - a threat later deemed a hoax.

As President Barack Obama's former secretary of state, Mrs Clinton holds direct ties to the White House's national security policies and has largely endorsed the president's approach to dismantling IS.

Like Mr Obama, she has said she would not send American ground troops to the Middle East, saying it would provide a recruiting tool for IS.

But Republicans view Mr Obama's handling of foreign policy and terrorism as a weakness and have tried to link Mrs Clinton to the president's record, arguing that his policies in the Middle East allowed terrorist groups to flourish since the drawdown of troops in Iraq.

"Clinton is still linking terrorism to gun control, still standing by failed government bureaucracy, and still echoing President Obama's tired rhetoric," said Jeff Bechdel, a spokesman for the Republican-leaning America Rising PAC.

"This speech today was more focused on partisan politics than the existential threat we face from Isis."

In Minneapolis, Mrs Clinton said Silicon Valley technology companies should redouble their efforts to identify the messages of violent extremists used to recruit followers.

She said the US and its allies needed to commit to better sharing of information about suspected terrorists and take steps to revoke the passports and visas of those who joined IS.

Mrs Clinton pointed to local efforts in Minneapolis-St Paul to combat terror recruiting, particularly among its Somali population, the largest in the United States, and met Muslim community leaders before her speech.

Authorities have said about a dozen Minnesota residents have travelled to Syria to join jihadist groups since late 2013, and several more have tried. Just last week, a ninth Minnesota man was arrested on a charge of conspiring to provide material support to IS.

Somalis in Minnesota have tried to stop the recruiting with strong anti-terror messages and programmes aimed at creating opportunities.

Makram El-Amin, an imam at a Minneapolis mosque, was among the Muslim and Somali community leaders who met Mrs Clinton privately beforehand. He said his community was seeking a partner and stressed their concern about being categorised as anti-American because of the actions of a few.

"We know that those who are promoting anti-Muslim sentiment, they have a leader, they have a face," he said.

"Isis, these extremists, these terrorists, they have a face. They have a champion. What we are looking for in this upcoming an election is a champion."

Press Association

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