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News >  Idaho

Twin Falls officials face backlash over refugee assault case

Associated Press

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – Twin Falls officials have been inundated with angry emails in connection to a juvenile case in which three boys from Iraq and Sudan are accused of assaulting a 5-year-old girl.

City Council members and City Manager Travis Rothweiler have received more than 100 emails from people upset about the case, which opponents of Islam and of refugee resettlement say validates their beliefs about Muslims, the Times-News reported.

“We were planning to spend a few days in Twin Falls on our RV tour of Wyoming and Idaho,” one person wrote in one of the more tame emails the Times-News obtained through a records request. “We have decided to pass around, way around, the Twin Falls area to avoid your refugee problem.”

Many of the emails accuse the city of trying to cover up the case and many incorrectly say the accused attackers were Syrian. The case is sealed because of the ages of the accused, but police Chief Craig Kingsbury has refuted allegations that were circulating on social media and conspiracy-oriented websites that three young Syrian refugees raped the girl.

City officials have been forwarding some of the emails and voicemails to police and the FBI, as they contain threats of death and rape. In one series of threatening voicemails left for faculty members at the College of Southern Idaho, which administers the refugee program in Twin Falls, a man mentioned the murder of Jo Cox, a Labour member of Parliament from England and a refugee resettlement supporter.

City spokesman Joshua Palmer said many of the phone calls the city got from people concerned about what happened were more civil than the emails, with many of the calls appearing to be driven by concern for the victim.

“They were just wanting more information,” Palmer said. “Or they were upset because they received some misinformation.”

Palmer said some people have calmed down once they get a response and some exchanges have evolved into a more general discussion of the city’s refugee program.

“The human side of things can get lost in an email exchange,” he said.

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