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3 charged in Bloomington mosque bombing

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Dar Al Farooq Executive Director Mohammed Omar speaks
Dar Al Farooq Executive Director Mohammed Omar speaks at a press conference, March 13, 2018, after three central Illinois men were arrested and charged in connection with the bombing of the Twin Cities mosque.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated: 9:31 p.m. | Posted: 4:35 p.m.

Three central Illinois men have been arrested and charged in connection with the bombing of a Twin Cities mosque last August and an attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic.

Michael B. Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29 and Joe Morris, 22, were charged with "using an explosive device to maliciously destroy and damage" the Dar al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota.

The men were arrested in east-central Illinois on Tuesday morning and were charged with the possession of a machine gun. They were also charged with the attempted bombing of the Women's Health Practice in Champaign, Ill., in November.

An informant notified law enforcement that he heard the group talking about the how they threw a pipe bomb at the mosque. Hari was supposed to pay $18,000 to Morris and McWhorter for their participation in the bombing, according to court documents.

The men drove from their Illinois homes to Minnesota and agreed that Morris would smash the mosque's windows and McWhorter would throw the bomb into the window of the mosque, charging documents said.

Jaylani Hussein speaks at a press conference
Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Jaylani Hussein speaks at a press conference held at the Dar al Farooq Islamic Center.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim advocacy and civil liberties group Council on American-Islamic Relations, welcomed news of the arrests. He also expressed concern over what led the men to target a mosque so far from their home.

"This is a well-funded, well organized attack that we have learned about today," he said at a press conference at the mosque Tuesday evening. "We recognize the early motivations are exactly what the anti-Muslim organizing has pushed — to push Muslims out, to drive fear in our communities. But today we want to reaffirm that our community is going to be resilient."

Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, called on President Trump to "unequivocally condemn this act of terror." He also raised the question of what would motivate someone from Illinois to attack a Minnesota mosque, pointing to "a neighbor" who has posted anti-Muslim rhetoric attacking the mosque online.

"We should not allow a culture of hatred to be fostered in this beautiful state," Zaman said. "We need to call it out as it occurs, when it occurs, there are consequences. We do not need to wait until my organization also receives a bombing to ask, 'Why is this happening.'"

McWhorter allegedly told an FBI agent that he did not intend to kill Muslims, but just wanted "to scare them out of the country."

According to charging documents, McWhorter said Morris smashed the window of the mosque with a sledgehammer and ignited a "huge" black powder bomb. After he threw the bomb inside the mosque, McWhorter said he saw a man who looked "directly at him."

"We were long gone before it went off," McWhorter said. 

In an April 2017 Chicago Tribune article, Hari described how he drafted a $10 billion plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, citing President Trump's call for such a wall. Hari drew up the proposal after launching a security company, Crisis Resolution Security Services, the newspaper said.

Hari also filed a federal lawsuit just last month in central Illinois, naming the U.S. secretaries of agriculture and health and human services as defendants. It accuses their departments of violating his constitutional rights by doing the food-safety certification work that his firm, Equicert, does.

"The People of the United States have rejected the Marxist doctrine that the government shall own the means of production," he wrote, according to the court document. He requested a court order barring federal officials from interfering with his business.

The explosion at the mosque occurred in the early hours of Aug. 5, as worshipers gathered for the early morning prayer called Fajr. 

No one was hurt, but the explosion woke neighbors and damaged the imam's office. 

Gov. Mark Dayton called it "an act of terror." 

"That bombing was a tragedy for all Minnesotans," Greg Brooker, acting U.S. Attorney for Minnesota said at a press conference in Minneapolis Tuesday afternoon.

The mosque primarily serves Somalis across the Twin Cities.

Mohamed Omar, the center's executive director, said at the time of the bombing that the mosque didn't receive any threats beforehand or claims of responsibility afterward. The FBI had offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the bombing.

Officials said at the time that witnesses saw someone throw something from a truck or van before the blast and saw a vehicle speed away afterward. Mosque leaders later released security video from inside the mosque that caught the moments before the explosion, and some smoke and flying debris. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.