CHICAGO (AP) — Three Illinois men are accused of bombing a mosque in suburban Minneapolis in an attempt to scare Muslims into leaving the United States, authorities said.
The men allegedly traveled some 500 miles (805 kilometers) from a rural farming community to carry out the Aug. 5 attack, which caused a damaging fire at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. No one was hurt.
The men are also suspected in the attempted bombing of an abortion clinic on Nov. 7 in Champaign, about 140 miles south of Chicago, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Springfield.
Investigators are now turning to the suspects’ backgrounds to learn more about their possible affiliations and motivations.
One of the men, 47-year-old Michael B. Hari, filed a federal lawsuit 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.
Hari described in an April 2017 Chicago Tribune article how he drafted a $10 billion plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, citing President Donald Trump’s call for such a barrier. Hari drew up the proposal after launching a security company, Crisis Resolution Security Services, the newspaper said.
The other two men charged in the mosque bombing were identified as Joe Morris, 22, and Michael McWhorter, 29. All three are from Clarence, a community of less than 100 people some 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Champaign. A fourth man was charged with a gun offense, but he was not identified as a suspect in the attack on the mosque or the clinic.
A tip in December led authorities to investigate the three men, after a person sent the local sheriff photos of guns and bomb-making material inside Hari’s parents’ home, where Hari often stayed. In January, a second informant told authorities that the three men had carried out the mosque bombing and the failed clinic bombing, according to a complaint.
McWhorter allegedly told an FBI agent during an interview that the three rented a pickup in Champaign and drove to Minnesota with a plan to bomb the mosque, according to a criminal complaint. He said they wanted to let Muslims know they are not welcome in the United States and to “scare them out of the country,” according to notes taken by the FBI.
It was not clear from the complaint why the men targeted that particular mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Morris told one informant that Hari had promised to pay him and McWhorter $18,000 for participating in the mosque bombing, according to the complaint.
The men broke a window to the imam’s office and threw a pipe bomb containing black powder into the mosque. The pipe bomb exploded, causing a fire that was extinguished by sprinklers, according to an affidavit.
The attack happened just before morning prayers.
McWhorter also allegedly admitted that the three men tried to bomb the clinic known as Women’s Health Practice, again renting a truck to carry out the attack. McWhorter described a PVC pipe bomb and said Morris broke a window and threw it in, where it failed to go off, according to the complaint.
The complaint said nothing about a possible motivation for the clinic attack.
The Islamic Center primarily serves Somalis in the Minneapolis area and houses a mosque and religious school for children. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community outside of east Africa, with an estimated 57,000 people, according to the most recent census estimates.