2 US terror militia members admit role in attack on Minnesota mosque

The Dar Al-Farooq Youth and Family Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Courtesy: Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center via Facebook)
Updated 25 January 2019
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2 US terror militia members admit role in attack on Minnesota mosque

  • Suspects confess to being members of an Illinois militia group whose aim is to scare Muslims into leaving the US
  • The suspects were behind the fire-bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Hoping to scare Muslims into leaving the US, members of an Illinois militia group rented a truck and drove more than 500 miles (805 kilometers) to bomb a Minnesota mosque, two men admitted Thursday.
Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris said that when they arrived at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017, they broke a window and threw a lit pipe bomb and a gasoline mixture inside, causing an explosion, fire and extensive damage. No one was injured in the attack, which happened just as morning prayers were about to begin, shaking members of the local Muslim community.
McWhorter, 29, and Morris, 23, of Clarence, Illinois, each pleaded guilty Thursday to five counts in connection with the mosque attack, the attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic, armed robberies and other crimes.
A third defendant, 47-year-old Michael Hari, whom prosecutors said directed the bombing, remains in federal custody in Illinois.
The plea agreements portray Hari as the ringleader of a militia group called the White Rabbits, which included Hari, McWhorter, Morris and at least five other people. Hari’s trial is set for July.
The guilty pleas of McWhorter and Morris came a day before three members of another militia were set to be sentenced for a foiled plot to massacre Muslims in southwest Kansas by blowing up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants. That attack, planned for the day after the November 2016 election, was thwarted after another member of the group tipped off authorities.
In the Minnesota mosque bombing, Hari allegedly picked Dar Al-Farooq because it was far enough away from the White Rabbits’ central Illinois hometown that he thought they wouldn’t be suspected. He also allegedly believed it was a focal point for terror recruiting, a claim that law enforcement has not substantiated.

This undated photo provided by the Sherburne County Jail shows Illinois miligtia member Joe Morris. (Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

Morris’ attorney, Robert Richman, said Morris merely followed the lead of Hari, a man he’d known as a father figure since he was 9.
“Hari essentially weaponized Joe Morris,” Richman said.
McWhorter’s attorney, Chris Madel, said: “Human beings are a lot more complicated than what some people believe, and Michael McWhorter’s story has yet to be told.”
Morris and McWhorter could each face at least 35 years in prison.
Neither attorney would say whether his client would cooperate or testify against Hari. Messages left with Hari’s attorneys in Illinois and Minnesota were not immediately returned.
The plea agreements say the men targeted the mosque to interfere with the free exercise of religion by Muslims and to let Muslims know they were not welcome in the United States.
It’s not clear how the White Rabbits became aware of Dar Al-Farooq, but the mosque was in headlines in recent years: Some young people from Minnesota who traveled to Syria to join the Daesh group had worshipped there. Mosque leaders were never accused of any wrongdoing.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, said McWhorter and Morris wanted the Muslim community to be fearful and run away.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said.
According to the plea agreements, the men were headed toward Minnesota when Hari told McWhorter and Morris that he had a pipe bomb in the vehicle and they were going to bomb a mosque.
When the three arrived at Dar Al-Farooq, Hari gave Morris a sledgehammer and told him to break a window, the plea agreements say. McWhorter then lit the fuse on the pipe bomb and threw it inside; Morris threw the gasoline mixture.
McWhorter and Morris also pleaded guilty to their roles in a failed attack on a Champaign, Illinois, abortion clinic in November 2017. A pipe bomb that Morris said he and Hari threw into the clinic did not explode.
The plea agreements say Hari, McWhorter, Morris and others also participated in an armed home invasion in Ambia, Indiana, and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.
Morris and McWhorter also admitted to attempting to extort Canadian National Railway by threatening to damage tracks if the railroad didn’t pay them money.
A fourth man, Ellis Mack of Clarence, already pleaded guilty to two counts in Illinois. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in April.


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.