US charges three men in bomb plot against Somali immigrants

The three suspects, identified as white, are members of a small group called the 'Crusaders' and are accused of planning to park four explosives-laden vehicles at each corner of an apartment complex in Kansas to 'wake people up'.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People stand outside a mosque located within an apartment complex, which federal authorities allege was to be targeted in a bomb plot by three Kansas men, is seen in Garden City, Kansas, US October 14, 2016.

US federal authorities on Friday charged three men in Kansas with a plot to bomb an apartment complex where Muslim immigrants from Somalia lived and worshipped. 

The three men are accused of planning to fill four vehicles with explosives, and parking them at each corner of the apartment complex to create a massive explosion.

The suspects conducted surveillance, stockpiled weapons and explosive components, and prepared a manifesto saying their planned attack was to "wake people up," the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

"These charges are based on eight months of investigation by the FBI that is alleged to have taken the investigators deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence," said Tom Beall, the acting US Attorney in the district of Kansas. 

If convicted, they could face life in prison, Beall said in the statement.

The three men, two of whom were arrested Friday and a third who was already in custody, are all residents of Kansas. They were identified as Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, both 49, and Patrick Eugene Stein, 47. 

Allen and Wright are from Liberal, Kansas, and Stein is from Wright, Kansas. They are charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. 

The interior of a mosque located within an apartment complex, which US federal authorities allege was to be targeted in a bomb plot by three Kansas men. Source: Reuters

The FBI used a confidential source to attend meetings of a militia group called the Kansas Security Force and to collect information, according to documents released with the charges. 

The three suspects were members of a small group called the Crusaders, the documents said. All three defendants are white, according to jail records from Sedgwick County, Kansas where they are being held.

The men were being investigated as part of a domestic terrorism probe of several militia groups in southwestern Kansas, according to an FBI affidavit accompanying the charges. 

Those groups had anti-government, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration beliefs, the affidavit said.

The men were not believed to be affiliated with any larger terrorist group and there is no continuing threat from their plot, FBI officials said. They planned to carry out the attack the day after Election Day next month.

The three defendants do not yet have an attorney and will be arraigned on the charges on Monday, said a spokesman for Beall.

KWCH, reporting from the site of the apartment complex — where some 200 people live — described the Somali community there as being in shock. Source: Reuters

After considering targets such as pro-Somali churches and public officials, the defendants chose the Garden City apartment complex, according to the charges. 

The building is occupied by a large number of Somali immigrants and one apartment serves as a mosque for local Somalis. Garden City is a community of about 27,000 people in southwestern Kansas. 

Many of the Somali immigrants are reportedly employed by a Tyson Foods meat processing plant in the area, according to local television station KWCH TV. 

"Many Kansans may find it startling, as I have, that such things could happen here," Beall said at the press conference.

Local police were planning a meeting Saturday with community members to discuss the case.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has risen sharply in the United States during the past two years.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has reported that mosque attack incidents in the US reached a record high in 2015 and that the “most recent cycle of Islamophobia is characterised by its violent tone.”




TRTWorld and agencies