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Three arrested on gun charges are suspected in Bloomington mosque bombing

March 14, 2018 GMT

Three Illinois men are charged with the Aug. 2017 bombing of a Bloomington Islamic center, the U.S. Attorneys office said Tuesday.

Although the investigation is ongoing, it is important that the public be made aware that these individuals have been apprehended and are charged federally with the bombing in Bloomington, said Greg Brooker, U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said at a Tuesday evening news conference. That bombing that took place last summer was a tragedy for all Minnesotans, and from the beginning, it has become a top priority for federal and local law enforcement and remains so today.

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Michael McWhorter, 29; Joe Morris, 22 and Michael Hari, 47, are charged with using an explosive device to maliciously damage and destroy the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in the predawn hours of Aug. 5, 2017, using a PVC pipe bomb, No one was hurt in the explosion, which heavily damaged the imams office, but about a dozen people were gathered in a room nearby for morning prayers. Morris and Hari made their initial appearance Tuesday on federal charges related to an attempted bombing in Champaign, Ill.

The three were charged after a confidential source alerted authorities that they were responsible for the bombing, according to authorities.

The FBI described the weapon used as an improvised explosive device, the remnants of which were flown to Virginia for expedited analysis at the bureaus forensic lab.

The bombing was labeled as the FBIs top investigative priority for its Minneapolis office, and the bureau announced a $30,000 reward for more information in the weeks afterward as leads began to prove elusive.

Robert Bone, acting special agent in charge of the FBIs Minneapolis division, said that in light of pending federal charges, they cannot discuss additional details of the case or investigation.

That said, we continue to investigate the motivations behind this attack, Bone said, adding that they believe there is no further threat to the community related to the bombing. Bone thanked community members for providing valuable information to investigators,

Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts echoed Bone, saying the department received outstanding support from the mosque and Bloomingtons Muslim community.

We hope this is a significant portion of the healing process for Dar al Farooq, Potts said. Thank you to our community.

Members of Dar al Farooq are expected to address reporters at 7 p.m.

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We are happy that the people are caught, said Abdulahi Farah, a member and volunteer. At the same time were a little bit shocked that they came all the way from Illinois just to cause hate on the community. Its just a mix of feelings.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations-MN, lauded the arrests, and said anti-Muslim statements about the mosque on social media were putting a target on the mosque, attracting attention even from other states. Its extremely dangerous, he said.

It just shows the level of sophistication and organization the anti-Muslim groups have, and also that these groups are threat to ... really many communities, Hussein said. It definitely does bring a sense of closure, but in this current environment, our community is still threatened by the rising hate.

Gov. Mark Dayton quickly labeled the blast an act of terrorism as elected officials and other community leaders gathered to show support in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Last fall, mosque leaders released video of the explosion captured on cameras inside the center in hopes of generating tips that could lead to an arrest. But no known footage existed from outside the building because Dar Al-Farooq did not have security cameras in place outside at the time of the bombing.

Although no one was injured in the attack, imam Waleed Meneeses office took a direct hit from the bomb. Its windows were smashed and its floor, ceiling and walls destroyed. Shrapnel also ripped through the furniture.

In January, more than 100 people visited the center for an open house celebration of renovation work done for free by the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. The carpenters union repaired the office using floor panels and electrical work donated by different companies.

The repairs inside and outside the office cost thousands of dollars, according to its executive director Mohamed Omar. The center had raised more than $98,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, with part of the funds going toward reconstruction.

Stay tuned to startribune.com for more on this developing story.

Staff writer Miguel Otandaacute;rola contributed to this report.

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