In the photo above, a member of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team surveys damage at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington after a Saturday firebombing that Gov. Mark Dayton has labeled “a hate crime.”
The incident happened about about 5 a.m. Saturday, with more than a dozen mosque congregants inside the building preparing for Fajr prayer, said Mohamed Omar, Dar Al-Farooq’s executive director. One congregant was still outside when he saw a truck pull up to the windows outside Omar’s office. The attacker was then seen running to the window and hurling an object through it. The crash of breaking glass was followed by a loud explosion and thick smoke, Omar said.
Fire damage was limited, Omar said, but heat from the blast was sufficient to tear apart ceiling tiles and trigger the room’s automatic fire door. Sprinklers quickly doused the flames, causing serious water damage, Omar said.
Bloomington police as well as agents from the FBI and ATF swarmed the scene Saturday morning. By late that afternoon, Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts announced that the FBI would take the lead in the investigation. On Sunday, Dayton branded the attack “terrible, dastardly, cowardly” and “a criminal act of terrorism.”
The governor said he is determined not to let the incident pull communities apart. “In Minnesota,” he said, “we accept one another, we support one another and we respect one another.”
Omar said his community, which is made up mostly of Somali immigrants, can’t afford security cameras. He also said the mosque didn’t receive any threats beforehand or claims of responsibility afterward.
Nobody was hurt in the explosion, which happened just before morning prayers on Saturday. The Minneapolis FBI office has not announced arrests or said whether it has identified any suspects. In a statement Monday afternoon, Special Agent in Charge Rick Thornton called it a “terrible crime” and vowed to focus every available resource on the case until it’s solved.
Thornton also said there are certain questions he can’t answer due to the ongoing investigation.
“I want to assure the community that this investigation is our top priority and we continue to work to determine who carried out this crime and why,” he said. “These are important questions, and it will take time to develop the information necessary to answer them.”
The FBI office tweeted a picture Sunday of its command center, showing over a dozen people, most with their faces blacked out, and said it was “All hands on deck!”
Associated Press writer Steve Karnowski contributed to this story from Minneapolis.