3 arrested on gun charges suspected in Minnesota mosque bombing

Michael Hari mugshot via The News Gazette
Michael Hari in a 2017 police mugshot

Three men from rural central IL have been arrested on gun charges and a connection with the bombing of a Bloomington mosque in August 2017 and an attempted bombing of an IL women's health clinic in November 2017.

The three men - Michael Mcwhorter, Joe Morris and Michael B. Hari - are now in custody in Urbana, Ill., Minnesota's U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. They and Ellis Mack, 18, also of Clarence, face a federal charge of possession of a machine gun, according to John E. Childress, U.S. attorney for the central district of IL.

According to the affidavit, Mr. McWhorter told a law enforcement official that during the attempted bombing at the Women's Heath Practice in Champaign, Ill., Mr. Morris had been dropped off at the clinic in the middle of the night, smashed the clinic window and thrown an explosive device inside.

According to an affidavit obtained by Fox 9, McWhorter allegedly told an Federal Bureau of Investigation 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. No one at the Minnesota mosque was injured, but the building sustained minor damage. All are from Clarence, a rural community 35 miles north of Champaign-Urbana.

They were arrested along with a fourth man on suspicion of illegally possessing a machine gun.

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He also said it was Hari's idea to target a mosque, with the intention to "scare them out of the country".

McWhorter allegedly admitted his involvement in bombing the mosque and the attempt on the women's clinic, and told investigators that each of the three men had specific roles in the attack. Saying that Morris made the pipe bomb and McWhorter threw the bomb into the mosque. When the Minnesota bomb attack occurred in the predawn hours of August 5, 2017 a dozen people were gathered for morning prayers. The tipster eventually became one of two informants in the case, according to the complaint.

Executive director Jaylani Hussein of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says the arrests are "definitely a relief".

The FBI is not commenting on any possible local ties to Minnesota, but leaders at Dar-Al Farooq hope a larger message remains.

Mohamed Omar, the center's executive director, said at the time that the mosque didn't receive any threats beforehand or claims of responsibility afterward. The FBI had offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the bombing. The video didn't show the blast itself.

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