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FBI: Islamic Center blast caused by improvised explosive device

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Mohamed Omar, the executive director of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center
Mohamed Omar, the executive director of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., speaks during an interfaith press conference Saturday afternoon. The FBI says an improvised explosive device caused an explosion at the center, damaging the imam's office. No injuries were reported.
Peter Cox | MPR News

Updated: 7:00 p.m. | Posted: 10:11 a.m.

Shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday, Bloomington police responded to a call of an explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center near Interstate Hwy. 494 and Portland Avenue South.

By late Saturday afternoon, the FBI said the preliminary investigation indicated the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device, but would not characterize the device further.  They said their focus was to determine the "who and why" behind the incident.

The FBI Minneapolis Field Office leads the investigation and is working with Bloomington police, ATF and other law enforcement agencies.

Bloomington police chief Jeff Potts addresses the media
Bloomington police chief Jeff Potts addresses the media about the explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center on Saturday.
Peter Cox | MPR News

Bloomington police chief Jeff Potts said Saturday morning that first responders found smoke after reports of an explosion.

"There was no additional explosion or anything like that," said Potts. "There was no fire."

No injuries or arrests have been reported.

The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center serves Muslims from across the Twin Cities, both as a mosque and a community center.  Its executive director is Mohamed Omar. 

"I was sad and I was surprised," said Omar. "It was the first prayer and it's 5 a.m. The whole neighborhood was calm. People were supposed to be sleeping. That's how peaceful it should be."

The explosion woke neighbors in the area.

"I just heard a loud boom," said Trevin Miller who lives across the street and was asleep when the explosion happened. "It sounded like a firework or a car accident mixed with like a shotgun shell.  It shook me, it's what woke me up. I could feel it, like, inside of me."

FBI agents and others inspect the site on an explosion.
FBI agents and others inspect the site where an explosion happened at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn.
Peter Cox | MPR News

The explosion happened inside the imam's office. From the outside, the window was visibly blown out and investigators with the FBI, the ATF and the Bloomington Police Department scoured the area near it for clues.

Chief Potts said the explosion didn't cause much damage outside of that office.

"It was just one explosion," said Potts. "The first responders were able to determine there were no additional explosions, there's no additional fire and it seems as though the damage was pretty limited to one particular room."

Mohamed Omar said one member of his congregation did report something suspicious right before the explosion.

"One of our congregation saw a pick up truck leaving at a very unusual speed and the guy was standing exactly where the window was broken," said Omar.

By afternoon, leaders from various faiths had gathered outside the mosque to condemn the explosion. They were joined by people who held up signs of support for the mosque. One woman brought flowers she handed out to members of the congregation.

Curtiss DeYoung is CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches and was one of many who spoke.

"An attack on a mosque is an attack on a synagogue, is an attack on a church, it's an attack on all faith communities," said DeYoung. "So we stand with you, a million protestants in Minnesota."

Governor Mark Dayton issued a statement Saturday afternoon.

"Every place of worship, for all Minnesotans of every faith and culture, must be sacred and safe. My prayers are with the children, families, and faith leaders of the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center today," the statement said. He thanked the Bloomington Police and Fire Departments, as well as the FBI and ATF for their response to the incident.

Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas also issued a statement.

"Today, I joined other local faith leaders at Dar Al Farooq to express our support and sympathy to our Muslim neighbors," he said. "Earlier this year, the Muslim community placed an ad in the Star Tribune affirming solidarity with the Jewish community after the JCC bomb threats. Today, the Jewish community affirms its solidarity with the school, mosque, and local Muslim community."

ATF and FBI agents search the grounds of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center
Agents with the FBI and ATF search the grounds of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn.
Peter Cox | MPR News

The FBI is asking anyone with information on the incident to call their national tip line 1-800-CALL-FBI.

The Muslim American Society of Minnesota and the Council on American Islamic Relations are both offering separate $10,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.