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Three Illinois men accused in Minnesota mosque bombing

The incendiary device tossed into the Dar Al Farooq Center in Bloomington primarily struck the office of the mosque's imam. Damaged in the blast was the desk where the religious leader prepares for prayers in the morning. Shrapnel lodged in the side of the desk, the wall behind it and the ceiling above it. Kristi Belcamino / St. Paul Pioneer Press

BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—Federal officials in Illinois say they have arrested three men they think bombed a Bloomington mosque last summer.

Law enforcement officers arrested the trio Tuesday morning, March 13, in east-central Illinois. While they were arrested on a charge of possessing a machine gun, a criminal complaint filed In U.S. District Court indicated authorities obtained evidence that they were responsible for bombing the Bloomington mosque last Aug. 5.

Arrested were Michael B. Hari, 47; Joe Morris, 22; and Michael McWhorter, 29. The three are suspected in the Bloomington crime and also the attempted bombing of an abortion clinic in Champaign, Ill., on Nov. 7, 2017, among other crimes.

Also arrested on the machine gun charge was Ellis Mack, 18, of Clarence, but court documents do not indicate he was suspected in the Bloomington bombing.

Court documents filed by an FBI agent indicate that McWhorter "admitted to his participation in the bombing of the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center" in Bloomington.

McWhorter, Hari and Morris drove from Illinois to the Twin Cities in a rented pickup truck, the document says.

Hari was the driver, Morris smashed a mosque window and McWhorter threw a bomb through the broken window, the court filing indicated.

McWhorter, who said it was Hari's idea to bomb the mosque, said "they did not indent to kill anyone, but they wanted to 'scare them out of the country' (referring to Muslims), because they push their beliefs on everyone else," the court document said.

The bombing would "show them, they you're not welcome here," he added.

However, the Twin Cities community showed compassion and came to the aid of those who worshiped in the mosque.

The bomb was thrown into the imam's office. While it was early in the morning, several worshipers were inside. No one was hurt.

A video showed the explosion.

"You can see it put a lot of cracks into the cement wall," center Executive Director Mohamed Omar said when the video was released. "Thank God nobody got hurt, but the one who did it wanted to hurt someone and wanted to kill someone."

McWhorter said the bomb was made from black powder and was about 18 inches to 24 inches tall.

The court document said: "McWhorter said he didn't want to be anywhere near it when it went off. ... 'We were long gone before it went off'."

When he threw the bomb, McWhorter said, someone inside looked "directly at him."

The mosque primarily serves Somalis in the Minneapolis area. 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.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.