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Group wants a hate crime probe after strangers reportedly use racial slur, attack man

CAIR-MN says the victim in the Fargo attack is Somali-American.

The Minnesota chapter of Muslim civil rights group Council on American Islamic Relations wants a recent beating in Fargo looked at as a possible hate crime.

The Bismarck Tribune reported on the incident. Police told the paper a couple strangers approached three men in a parking lot around 1 a.m. Sunday. The trio was moving into the building there.

Witnesses said the two strangers used racial slurs toward one of the three men, then later assaulted him, according to the Bismarck Tribune. The victim wasn't seriously hurt. The two suspects were arrested and are in jail, being held on aggravated assault charges.

The victim is Somali-American, group says

The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota (CAIR-MN) is now calling on authorities to investigate this as a possible hate crime.

The group says the man who was beaten is a Somali-American who lives in North Dakota, and pointed to the suspects' use of racial slurs.

"Given the reported bias-motivated slurs used during the alleged assault, we ask local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident as a possible hate crime," Executive Director Jaylani Hussein of CAIR-MN said in the statement.

Hate crimes: Up last year, but lower than earlier

CAIR-MN in its release mentions a higher prevalence of hate crimes targeting Muslims. The civil rights group says since the election (Nov. 8, 2016), it found a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents nationwide compared to the year before. During that same period, anti-Muslim hate crimes went up 44 percent.

The FBI defines hate crimes as an offense motivated (whether in whole or just in part) by a type of bias: either someone's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.

Specifically anti-Islamic hate crimes have tracked upward in recent years, FBI figures showed. Hate crimes against Jewish people and members of the LGBTQ community also have risen.

Minnesota officials in their 2016 crime summary noted a rise in bias-motivated crimes. There were 122 reported last year, compared to 96 in 2015. That most recent figure though is lower than the total reported in 2013 (154) and and 2012 (175).

A federal report put out last week found there are about 250,000 total hate crimes reported every year. But more than half of the hate crime “victimizations” were not noted to law enforcement, the most common reason being that it was handled a different way.

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