With terrorist attacks in Paris and a shooting spree in California prompting alarm on the part of many Americans, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Thursday that her "greatest fear" is that expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment will lead to attacks on Muslims in the U.S.

"The fear that you have just mentioned is in fact my greatest fear as a prosecutor, as someone who is sworn to the protection of all of the American people, which is that the rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence," Lynch told a dinner hosted by a Muslim civil rights organization. "My message to not just the Muslim community but to the entire American community is: we cannot give in to the fear that these backlashes are really based on."

During her remarks to the Muslim Advocates dinner, Lynch did not address the mass shooting at an office party in San Bernardino, Calif. Wednesday in which 14 people were killed. The FBI is leading the investigation in California because of concerns the incident may involve international terrorism. Officials say American-born Syed Rizwan Farook carried out the shooting along with his Pakistani wife, Tashfeen Malik, both of whom were killed in a confrontation with police later in the day. Farook reportedly took two trips to Saudi Arabia in recent years, including one to pick up Malik, but it remains unclear whether the attack had any direction or inspiration from abroad.

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