June 21 (UPI) — Authorities indicted three Illinois men Thursday on charges they violated federal civil rights and hate crime laws related to an Islamic mosque bombing in Minnesota last year.
The three men — Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 22 — are currently held in custody in Urbana, Illinois, on separate charges, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a release.
In a separate indictment in May, the three men were accused along with another man, Ellis Mack, 18, with being part of a militia group that called itself the “White Rabbits.” They allegedly obtained materials to make explosives. The May indictment accused them of several acts to affect commerce, including attempted robbery and planting explosives in property in Illinois.
The new charges allege they targeted the Islamic religious center and religious school for children called the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center because of its Muslim affiliation without intent to kill anyone. But they wanted to “scare [Muslims] out of the country,” and “show them hey, you’re not welcome here,” McWhorter said in a complaint.
“All people — regardless of where they worship — have the right under federal law to live free from the threat of violence and discrimination,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said. “This Justice Department will hold accountable under the law anyone who attempts to commit violent acts of hate by threat or action.”
The federal indictment alleges that Hari constructed a pipe bomb and rented a pickup truck in Illinois. Then, Hari, McWhorter and Morris took the truck from Illinois to Bloomington, Minn., stopping to pick up diesel fuel and gasoline, which they mixed in a plastic container, the Justice Department said.
It alleges Morris broke the mosque window and threw the plastic container into the mosque. McWhorter allegedly lit a fuse and through a pipe bomb into the window.
McWhorter, Morris and Hari have already been charged with arson in the District of Minnesota, the release said.
The FBI Minneapolis field office has taken on the lead role investigating the bombing since the Aug. 5 mosque explosion in Bloomington, about 10 miles from the Minneapolis city center.
“Last year’s bombing was more than just an attack against a single structure, it was an attack on the very religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” said Jill Sanborn, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division. “The ability to worship how and where we want is a cornerstone of our country’s foundation, and the FBI stands ready to work with the community and our law enforcement partners whenever those freedoms are attacked.”