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President Biden condemns killing of 6-year-old Muslim boy as suspect faces federal hate crime investigation

DOJ investigates Muslim boy's death as hate crime
Hundreds mourn slain Muslim boy as FBI warns of rising threats of violence in U.S. 02:22

A 6-year-old boy was killed in an alleged hate crime attack in Illinois near Chicago on Saturday. The boy and his mother, who was injured in the stabbing attack, were allegedly targeted for being Muslims. The suspect now faces a federal hate crime investigation and President Biden released a statement on Sunday condemning the attack. 

"Jill and I were shocked and sickened to learn of the brutal murder of a 6-year-old child and the attempted murder of the child's mother in their home yesterday in Illinois," the president said.  

"The child's Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek — a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace."

The mother and child were allegedly attacked by their landlord, Joseph Czuba, 71, who has been charged with two counts of hate crime, one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of aggravated battery, according to CBS Chicago.

joseph-czuba-1.jpg
Joseph Czuba is facing murder and hate crime charges Will County Sheriff

Czuba allegedy came at them with a knife and the mother ran to the bathroom and called 911, authorities said. She was stabbed more than a dozen times and her son, identified as Wadea Al-Fayoume, was stabbed 26 times, according to the Will County Sheriff's Office, CBS Chicago reports.

The Justice Department, which has opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the incident, has identified the mother as Hanaan Shahin. 

The attack "cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence," according to a DOJ statement, and the department is focused on protecting every person in the country. 

The attack came as the FBI warned of rising threats of violence in the U.S. amid the war between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist organization that governs Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

With tensions high across the U.S. and threats on the rise, the FBI is most concerned about lone-wolf-style attacks.

"These things are gonna be very tough to stop," Tom Warrick, a former Department of Homeland Security counterterrorism official, told CBS News. "At least, though, we can try to discourage them."

The landlord is awaiting an initial court appearance on Monday afternoon.

President Biden said the attack goes against the American values of "freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are."

"As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred," the president said in his statement. "I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate. We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone."

Israel Palestinians Hate Crime Illinois
Illinois State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid embraces Oday Al-Fayoume, father of Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, during a news conference at the Muslim Community Center on Chicago's Northwest Side, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023.  Jim Vondruska/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

Hundreds of mourners gathered at a mosque near Chicago on Monday to remember Wadea.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago said in a news release the stabbing was "our worst nightmare."

"Our hearts are heavy, and our prayers are with the darling boy and his mother," Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said in a statement. "As we await the official investigation of the local authorities, what we can confirm at the moment is that we have a murdered child in his own home, a six-year who had just celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago, and a mother lying in the hospital in serious condition, both stabbed over a dozen times. And we have testimony from the mother as to the harrowing moments that unfolded in terms of what was done and said — and it is our worst nightmare."

Shahin texted the father of the boy from the hospital, telling him the landlord was angered by what he was seeing on the news and knocked on their door, according to CAIR-Chicago, which says it obtained the text messages. When Shahin opened the door, Czuba allegedly tried to choke her and yelled "you Muslims must die." He then allegedly stabbed them, killing her son. 

"It all happened in seconds," she texted, according to the organization.

— Jeff Pegues contributed to reporting.

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