MINNEAPOLIS -- A Bloomington, Minn., mosque was bombed last August by three Illinois men who traveled eight hours from their small hometown to terrorize Muslims in hopes of making them flee the country, according to the FBI.
The trio was arrested Tuesday in Illinois after one of them admitted to aiding the plot and also described his role in a failed effort to bomb an Illinois women's health clinic months later.
The break in what the FBI described as its top investigative priority in Minneapolis lent long-sought answers to the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center's congregation even as it introduced a new set of questions.
"We are happy that the people are caught," said Abdulahi Farah, a member and volunteer. "At the same time we're a little bit shocked that they came all the way from Illinois just to cause hate on the community."
The bombing rocked Minnesota's interfaith community and prompted the governor to declare it an act of terror.
Michael McWhorter, 29; Joe Morris, 22 and Michael Hari, 47, are charged with "using an explosive device to maliciously damage and destroy" the center in the predawn hours of Aug. 5, using a PVC pipe bomb allegedly fashioned by Hari.
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According to charges, each man had a role in the attack: Hari, the alleged bomb-maker, drove the three to Minnesota and acted as a getaway driver; Morris allegedly smashed in the office window with a sledgehammer and McWhorter told agents he tossed the pipe bomb inside, in what turned out to be the imam's office. McWhorter allegedly admitted to his role in the plot in a pair of FBI interviews Saturday and Tuesday before the men were charged.
He claimed it was Hari's idea to target the mosque and that the men didn't intend to kill, according to an FBI terrorism task force officer's affidavit, "but they wanted to 'scare (Muslims) out of the country' ... because they push their beliefs on everyone else."
"McWhorter also said they committed the bombing mainly to 'show them hey, you're not welcome here, get the (expletive) out,' " the affidavit continued.
The three were charged Tuesday after a confidential source alerted investigators that they were responsible for the mosque blast and the failed clinic bombing and McWhorter admitted his involvement in the plot, according to authorities. Charging documents described the informant as someone Hari recruited into an "organization" that he led.