- Associated Press - Thursday, July 17, 2014

OXFORD, Ala. (AP) - About 400 law enforcement officers from northeast Alabama and northwest Georgia underwent training Thursday to deal with domestic extremism, which has been highlighted as a problem by the Obama administration.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force provided the training in conjunction with police in the east Alabama city of Oxford, where the class was held.

The daylong session, which was not open to the public, taught law officers what to do during encounters with domestic extremists. Federal authorities who announced the training said that could include members of militia groups or so-called sovereign citizens.

“As sovereign citizens’ numbers grow, so do the chances of contact with law enforcement and, thus, the risks that incidents will end in violence,” said Richard Schwein, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Birmingham, in a statement about the event. “Law enforcement must understand the sovereign-citizen movement, be able to identify indicators, and know how to protect themselves from the group’s threatening tactics and techniques.”

Officials said the session included a study of a 2012 mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, where a white supremacist and U.S. Army veteran killed six worshippers.

U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said law officers must understand the threats of domestic extremism.

“The goal of this training is for each participant to gain a greater appreciation of the potential threats associated with domestic extremism and how best to protect himself or herself if ever confronted with such a situation,” said Vance.

Federal prosecutors have had cases this year against at least two Alabama-based members of sovereign citizen groups, in which members generally claim not to be subject to civil laws including the tax code.

Last month the Justice Department said it was reviving a dormant task force dedicated to preventing acts of domestic terrorism motivated by extremist beliefs, such as the shooting outside a Jewish community center in Kansas in April.

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