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2 plead guilty in Minnesota mosque bombing

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Michael McWhorter
Michael McWhorter is one of three militia members accused of bombing a Minnesota mosque in 2017 and attempting to bomb an Illinois women's clinic.
Ford County Sheriff's Dept.

Updated 7:50 p.m. | Posted 9:02 a.m.

Two Illinois men pleaded guilty Thursday to bombing the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., in 2017.

Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 23, were two of three Clarence, Ill., men accused of bombing the mosque. 

Joe Morris is accused of bombing a Minnesota mosque.
Joe Morris is one of three militia members accused of bombing a Minnesota mosque in 2017.
Courtesy of Sherburne County Jail

A third man, 47-year-old Michael Hari, is also charged.  Hari remains jailed in Illinois and is expected to go to trial there on machine gun and other militia-related conspiracy charges. Prosecutors allege Hari founded an anti-government militia group that he called the "White Rabbits."

The three men were accused of attacking the Dar Al-Farooq in August 2017. The pipe bomb thrown into the mosque caused damage, but the five people who'd gathered for early prayers that morning all escaped injury. 

In separate hearings in a St. Paul federal courtroom Thursday, Morris said he broke a window and McWhorter admitted throwing a bomb inside the mosque. 

The two also confirmed details of the crime that prosecutors had outlined in indictments. They said they traveled in a rented pickup truck with the alleged ringleader, Hari. They stayed off the Illinois Tollway to avoid license plate readers and left their cell phones behind so they couldn't be tracked. 

McWhorter said they'd hoped to scare Muslims out of the country. While the attack left the Dar Al Farooq congregation shaken, Jaylani Hussein of the Council on American Islamic Relations said the bombers failed in their ultimate goal.

"They wanted to attack the Muslim community. They wanted for the Muslim community to fear. And they wanted the Muslim community to run away. Here today we're here as a community," Hussein said. "We're not going anywhere. We're more resilient than ever."

Hussein called the bombing an act of terrorism. Although one court document mentions a "domestic terrorist organization," prosecutors relied on hate crime and explosives charges to make their case. 

A sentencing date was not set Thursday but Judge Donovan Frank noted that the mandatory minimum for all charges is 35 years.

McWhorter and Morris also pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges stemming from militia activity in Illinois and the attempted bombing of a Champaign, Ill., women's clinic.