3 arrested on gun charges suspected in Minnesota mosque bombing

Last Updated Mar 13, 2018 8:14 PM EDT

MINNEAPOLIS -- Federal authorities announced on Tuesday that three men from rural central Illinois have been arrested on gun charges and that they are suspects in the bombing of a Minnesota mosque last year and an attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic. A statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Springfield said the men were arrested on charges of possession of a machine gun.

The statement said the three men are suspects in the Aug. 5, 2017, explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, and an attempted bombing of the Women's Health Practice in Champaign on Nov. 7.

The suspects were identified as 47-year-old Michael B. Hari, 22-year-old Joe Morris and 29-year-old Michael McWhorter. All are from Clarence, Illinois, a rural community 35 miles north of Champaign-Urbana. A fourth man also faces the gun charge, but he was not identified as a suspect in the bombing or attempted bombing.

The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington was bombed early on Aug. 5. The bomb went off as people were gathering for prayers. No one was injured in the blast, but the imam's office suffered extensive damage, CBS Minnesota reports.

The mosque primarily serves Somalis in the Minneapolis area. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community outside of east Africa, with an estimated 57,000 people, according to the most recent census estimates.

Mohamed Omar, the center's executive director, said at the time that the mosque didn't receive any threats beforehand or claims of responsibility afterward. The FBI had offered a $30,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction in the bombing.

Officials said at the time that witnesses saw someone throw something from a truck or van before the blast and saw a vehicle speed away afterward. Mosque leaders later released security video from inside the mosque that caught the moments before the explosion, and some smoke and flying debris. The video didn't show the blast itself.

Gov. Mark Dayton called the bombing an act of terrorism when he and other officials visited the mosque the day after the explosion.