Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that they arrested and charged three Illinois men in connection with a bomb attack against a Minnesota mosque last year meant to intimidate the local Muslim community.
Michael B. Hari, 47, Joe Morris, 22, and Michael McWhorter, 29, were arrested in Urbana, Illinois, and accused of using an improvised explosive device against the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in August 2017. The three suspects have also been charged for attempting to bomb a women’s health clinic in Champaign, Illinois.
According to the FBI’s criminal complaint, all three suspects traveled to the mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota and threw the explosive device through a window of the establishment. While no one was hurt in the attack, it caused extensive damage to the house of worship. Three months later, in November 2017, the group of men attempted to carry out a similar attack on the Women's Health Practice but the explosive device failed to detonate.
A fourth suspect, Ellis Mack, 18, was arrested with the other three suspects in connection to being in possession of illegal machine guns. Mack, however, is not said to be part of the bombings.
According to the affidavit, the suspects said they did not intend to kill any of the mosque’s patrons, but only “scare them [Muslims] out of the country.” McWhorter claimed this was in retaliation to Muslims supposedly wanting to push their beliefs on others.
He added, as stated in the complaint, that the bombing was intended to “show them hey, you’re not welcome here, get the f--- out.”
McWhorter claimed it was Hari’s idea to bomb the mosque, and that he offered to pay his accomplices $18,000 to help.
In April 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported that Hari, a former sheriff’s deputy, launched his own global security firm in an attempt to bid for construction rights to build President Donald Trump’s wall on the southern border.
"We would look at the wall as not just a physical barrier to immigration but also as a symbol of the American determination to defend our culture, our language, our heritage, from any outsiders," Hari told the Tribune.
The day the suspects were arrested, Trump was in San Diego inspecting prototypes for the wall.
It appears Hari is sympathetic to the antigovernment “patriot” movement. Researcher J.J. MacNab found Hari's YouTube account “Illinois Patriot” which features videos that align with Hari ideologically, such as a disdain for the child protective service agencies. In 2006, Hari was found guilty of abducting his two daughters after learning he would lose custody to his ex-wife. In another video Hari claims to lead a group called the “White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia," a reference to the antigovernment Three Percent movement. The group’s webpage also contains rhetoric in opposition to the Department of Child and Family Services.
The arrests were welcomed by the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center leadership and come at a time when anti-Muslim sentiment and violence in America is at a fever pitch. Anti-Muslim groups are energized and emboldened by Trump and his policies, while at the same time, the FBI’s hate crime statistics for 2016 saw a more than 20 percent increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims. The arrests in Illinois arrive just a month before a trial is set to begin against three Kansas men for plotting to kill Somali immigrants in Garden City, Kansas. The men were part of a small cell called “The Crusaders” and were affiliated with the Kansas Security Force, another group connected to the Three Percent movement.