ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Two of the three members of an Illinois militia group accused of bombing a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota in 2017 pleaded guilty Thursday.
Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 23, pleaded guilty in federal court to five counts, including an attempted bombing of an abortion clinic in Illinois. The third suspect, 47-year-old Michael Hari, remains in federal custody in Illinois.
“As I listened today, my heart was pounding,” said Abdulahi Farah, a leader at Dar Al-Farooq. “My hands were sweating. It took me back to that day.”
McWhorter, Morris and Hari were arrested in March last year in connection with the explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center. According to their guilty pleas, Morris broke a window with a sledgehammer and threw a container, which held diesel fuel and gasoline, into the building along with a pipe bomb. McWhorter lit the fuse of the bomb, which exploded and caused damage to the building, but did not injure anyone.
"These men knew how to use bombs," said Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations. "They knew how to use weapons and manufacture them to kill mass numbers of people. To turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. They knew how to put bombs together and they were organized.”
The men attacked Dar Al-Farooq because they wanted to scare Muslims from staying in the United States, according to their pleas. They chose the location in Bloomington because they believed it was far away enough from central Illinois that they would not be considered suspects.
"They wanted to attack the Muslim community," said Hussein. "They wanted the Muslim community to fear and they wanted the Muslim community to run away."
All three were charged with federal hate crimes in both Minnesota and Illinois. Morris' attorney, Robert Richman is pointing to Hari as the mastermind behind the plan.
“Michael Hari built the bomb," said Richman. "Michael Hari chose the mosque. Joe Morris, as the plea makes clear, knew nothing about the Dar al-Farooq Mosque. Knew nothing about a pipe bomb. Knew nothing about a bombing until about an hour before this terrible event occurred.”
According to online court records, Hari is set for a jury trial in July.