FBI Investigates Blast Caused by IED at Bloomington Islamic Center

August 06, 2017 06:21 PM

Authorities are investigating an explosion that happened Saturday morning at a Muslim community center in Bloomington. 

Police said the explosion was reported at about 5 a.m. at Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, which is on the 8200 block of Park Avenue South. 

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Mohamed Omar, executive director of the center, said something came through an office window during morning prayers and set off sprinklers in a ball of fire. A van or pickup truck was seen driving by before the explosion. 

The building sustained "significant damage" near an imam's office. About a dozen people were inside at the time, but no injuries were reported. 

Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, said at a news conference Sunday a group of six organizations have offered as much as a $24,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons who perpetrated the detonation.  

The mosque serves as a religious center and community organizing platform for Muslim activists and leaders in the area, according to the society. 

The FBI is now the lead agency investigating the explosion, and it will work alongside Bloomington Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

Digital Extra: Public Officials Decry Bloomington Mosque Blast, Call for Love, Tolerance

During a press conference Saturday, FBI Special Agent Rick Thorton said the bureau spent the day collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses who were at the Islamic center.

"At this point our focus is to determine who and why," Thorton said.

During the same press conference, Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts said he was pleased with support from the greater community.

"I also want to acknowledge the support we've seen from our community," he said. "The faith community and our community at large came out today to show their support for Dar Al-Farooq. I think that is quite amazing. It's great to see that in our community today."

The incident had not been labeled as a hate crime by the investigating agencies, but Gov. Mark Dayton said Sunday that the bombing was "an act of terrorism." 

He also said in a statement, "Every place of worship, for all Minnesotans of every faith and culture, must be sacred and safe."

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said, "That bomb does not represent Bloomington," and called for a response of love and inclusiveness. 

State Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, issued a statement following the explosion Saturday, which read in part: 

"It saddens beyond words to know that someone in our state would set an explosion in a place where children gather every day to learn and play ... Targeting faith communities shakes all of our American pursuits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must all unite to stand against them as Americans who cherish the ability to worship freely, and who cherish the ability of our neighbors to do the same."

The FBI asks anyone with information to call 1-800-225-5324.

Just recently in Minnesota, an Islamic cemetery in Castle Rock Township reported it had been vandalized with spray painted profanities and swastikas.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, has offered $10,000 toward the $24,000 reward as its national office is urging Islamic centers and mosques to step up security.

"If a bias motive is proven, this attack would represent another in a long list of hate incidents targeting Islamic institutions nationwide in recent months," said Amir Malik, the local chapter's civil rights director.

Along with a mosque, the building houses a community center that hosts computer classes, a basketball league, religious classes, lectures and other events. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to cover costs at the mosque. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Credits

Andrew Heiser

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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