Michael Hari, seen in this July 2017 mugshot, is one of three men charged in connection with the bombing
(Ford County Sheriff’s Office)
Three Illinois men have been arrested and charged in connection with the August bombing of a mosque in a suburb of Minneapolis, federal officials said Tuesday.
The men — identified as Michael B. Hari, 47; Joe Morris, 22; and Michael McWhorter, 29 — also face charges of possession of a machine gun and are suspects in the attempted bomb attack on an Illinois abortion clinic last November, according to the U. S. attorney’s office in Springfield, Ill.
A fourth man, an 18-year-old Ellis Mack, will also face the gun charge, but he was not regarded as a suspicious bombing or attempted bombing. All four men are of Clarence, a rural community 35 miles north of Champaign-Urbana.
The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., was bombed just before the morning prayers on Aug. 5, severe damage, although no one was injured or killed.
According to a statement obtained by Fox 9, McWhorter allegedly told an FBI agent during an interview that the three rented a pick-up in Champaign and drove to Minnesota with a plan to bomb the mosque, according to a criminal complaint. He said that they wanted to let Muslims know that they are not welcome in the United States and “scare them out of the country,” according to the notes made by the FBI.
It was not clear from the complaint, and the reason why the men have targeted a mosque so far away from Illinois.
Morris told an informant that Hari had promised to pay him, and McWhorter $18,000 for participating in the mosque bombing, according to the complaint.
Photos of machine guns and bombmaking materials allegedly in the possession of the men.
The explosion, which happened just before the morning prayers on a Saturday, damaged the imam’s office in the hall of the worship space.
In the announcement of the charges against the men, the interim Attorney of the V. S., Gregory Brooker, the bombardment is described as a “tragedy for all Minnesotans.”
McWhorter has allegedly also admitted that the three men tried to bomb the abortion clinic on Nov. 7, again for the hire of a truck to perform the attack. McWhorter described a PVC pipe bomb and said Morris broke a window and threw it in, where not to go, according to the complaint.
The complaint also said nothing about a possible motivation for the clinic attack.
The complaint said a tip led authorities to investigate the men, with a person sending the Ford County sheriff pictures of guns and bomb-making material in Hari’s parents ‘ home, where Hari often stayed. The tipster eventually became one of the two informants in the case, according to the complaint.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim civil liberties group Council on American-Islamic Relations, welcomed news of the arrest.
“This is certainly a relief to know that this is the case, finally, the conclusion, and that attackers-slash-suspects are arrested and no longer pose a threat to our community,” Hussein told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday.
The mosque mainly serves Somalis in the Minneapolis area. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community outside east Africa, with an estimated 57,000 people, according to the most recent census estimates.
Mohamed Omar, the executive director, said at the time that the mosque did not receive any threats beforehand or claims of responsibility over it. The FBI had offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the attack.
Officials said at the time that witnesses saw someone throw something from a truck or van for the bang and saw a vehicle speed away after that. Mosque leaders later released security video of the inside of the mosque that caught the moments before the explosion, and a lot of smoke and debris. The video is not to show the explosion itself.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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