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

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.


Bangladesh MP caught cheating in public exam

Updated 4 min 8 sec ago

Bangladesh MP caught cheating in public exam

  • Her alleged deception came to light when a local TV station entered the exam hall and confronted one of the lookalikes during the exam

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi MP accused of sending proxy candidates to take her place in a public exam may lose her seat if found guilty of cheating and face criminal charges, officials told Arab News on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Tamanna Nusrat, who was studying for a bachelor’s degree at Bangladesh Open University (BOU), sent lookalikes at least 13 times to the exam hall on her behalf. 

A four-member investigation team at the university is probing the matter.

Her alleged deception came to light when a local TV station entered the exam hall and confronted one of the lookalikes during the exam. The clip went viral on social media.

Nusrat, who is from the ruling Awami League party and holds one of 50 parliamentary seats reserved for women, was unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News.

“We have already cancelled the enrolment of the alleged candidate as she committed a crime and she has been permanently expelled from the university,” Prof. M. A. Mannan, BOU vice chancellor, told Arab News.

“Our committee visited the examination centre on Tuesday. We are trying to find out how it happened repeatedly ... if Nusrat is found guilty we will file a criminal case against her.”

HIGHLIGHT

It is alleged that Tamanna Nusrat, who was studying for a bachelor’s degree at Bangladesh Open University, sent lookalikes at least 13 times to the exam hall on her behalf. 

He said the principal of the college, who was in charge of the exam hall, could not evade responsibility.

“If necessary we will go for stern action against the college principal also as it has tarnished the good will of our university.”

But locals said they were aware of the Nusrat lookalikes. 

“I have information from my cousin who was also in the exam at the same hall,” one resident told Arab News. “Although I shared the information with my close associates, we couldn’t do anything against these irregularities as it involves a member of Parliament who is holding much influence.”

The Awami League has come down hard on the lookalike allegations, with Deputy Minister of Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury saying “no mercy” would be shown.

“Our party will not take any responsibility for any misdeeds or crime committed by the individual or party members,” he told Arab News. “I have asked the university management to run the enquiry independently without any fear and if she is found guilty the university authorities will file a criminal case in this regard.” 

 

He added: “Cheating in public exams is a criminal offense according to the law of the country. If she is convicted by the court eventually she will lose her membership in Parliament.”

Women’s participation in Bangladesh politics is still low, even though the ruling party and opposition are led by women. The total number of women currently in Parliament is 72.

Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina has led the country four times, while arch-rival Khaleda Zia has been prime minister three times.