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WASHINGTON — The owner of an online discount mats store has seen his business shut down and his family threatened after an employee sent a nasty note to a soldier serving in Iraq.

Faisal Khetani, the owner of Discount-Mats.com, said his site has been forced offline after being flooded with e-mails and Web attacks, and his personal information has been copied onto numerous sites.

“People have left threatening messages and e-mails, especially about my heritage, which they think is of Middle Eastern descent,” he said in an e-mail. “But it’s not … I am Pakistani. [That e-mail] does not reflect the opinion of the company.”

The problems started earlier this month when Sgt. Jason Hess, a soldier with the Headquarters Troop of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, e-mailed the business to see if he could get gym mats for a garage-turned-conference room at his camp in Taji.

An unidentified employee of the Wisconsin-based company replied within a few hours:

“We do not ship to APO addresses, and even if we did, we would NEVER ship to Iraq. If you were sensible, you and your troops would pull out of Iraq.”

Hess was irritated by the response, so he forwarded the message to a few people who in turn passed the e-mail to military bloggers and charity groups.

By last weekend details of the exchange, information about the company’s employees, and campaigns to bombard the site with angry e-mails had reached dozens of online bulletin boards and activist groups. Radio stations in the region told listeners to call and voice their disgust.

Khetani said he fired the employee who sent the message, but will not release any further details “for their own safety.”

“The truth of the matter is that this e-mail is true, and this member has been held responsible and liable for their actions,” he said.

Hess said that firing means little to him, and he still has not received an apology from the company.

Meanwhile, he found a different company that will send mats to an APO address, and his unit has already purchased mats through that company.


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