BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (KMSP) - Why would three men from Illinois drive more than 500 miles to throw a pipe bomb through the window of a Minnesota mosque?
The motive to specifically target Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington wasn't revealed by federal prosecutors, but was suggested by community leaders.
“We believe it is possible that one of our neighbors of our communities may have put the target on this mosque forcing individuals who live in Illinois to decide to attack a mosque in Minnesota,” said Jaylani Hussein of MN-CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations).
The neighbor community leaders speak of is a 57-year-old woman who lives two blocks away from Dar Al-Farooq and five years ago organized a group called Friends of Smith Park, which is located adjacent to Dar Al-Farooq.
The woman also has a blog called “5 Years of Collecting Data,” in which she exhaustively documents the traffic issues around the Islamic center, in what is an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood. She contends the mosque is in violation of several conditional use permits and that the City of Bloomington has done nothing to enforce traffic ordinances.
“It’s about fair treatment under the law and consistent enforcement of the city ordinances and that’s all it’s about,” said Larry Frost, an attorney representing the woman and Friends of Smith Park.
Frost told the Fox 9 Investigators 250 people signed a petition about traffic concerns near the park, but he admits there is a “core group” of 15 active members. Fox 9 is not naming the woman primarily associated with the group because she fears retaliation.
“Our issue is with the city more than anything,” said Frost.
But the issue caught the attention of the Alt-Right media. “US City Rolls Over for Radical Mosque,” screams on Alt-Right headline. Another site, Creeping Sharia, claims the mosque is “known for breeding terrorists and has been granted special privileges by the City of Bloomington, Minnesota.”
Community leaders believe that coverage caught the attention of Michael Hari, 47, of Clarence, Illinois, who along with two other men were charged this week by federal prosecutors with bombing the mosque.
Just five days ago, Hari posted a YouTube video under the name Illinois Patriot, in which he wears a mask, and claims the bombing of the mosque was a so-called ‘false flag operation.’
“It’s possible this whole pipe bomb thing was used as a pre-text to go after our organization,” said Hari.
Hari, who is a former sheriff’s deputy, runs a business called Crisis Resolution Security Services, which offers to help rescue people from natural or political disasters. He also placed a bid to build President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico.
In a slickly produced video presenting his bid, a narrator describes the project while animation shows what the wall would look like.
“The wall will be culturally significant, a powerful architectural statement of the determination of the American people to defend their nation and its Anglo-Saxon heritage, Western culture and English language,” said the narrator.
The attorney for Friends of Smith Park told the Fox 9 Investigators they can’t control who discovered their issue with Dar Al-Farooq or the incendiary tone of the coverage in the Alt-Right media.
“No one from Friends of Smith Park have transported this stuff out to anybody else," said Frost. "Nobody from Smith Park had any contact with the bombers unless they came on the site using a false name or something like that."