Three men were arrested on Friday in connection with a plot to bomb a Kansas apartment complex and mosque, federal officials said
Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright, and Patrick Stein face a charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction to detonate bombs at an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, where Somali immigrants live and worship, a statement from the US Justice Department said.
“The attack was planned for the day after election day,” US Attorney Tom Beall said in a Friday-afternoon press conference.
The men planned to release a manifesto they hoped would “wake people up,” Beall said. The three men were part of a militia that referred to itself as the Crusaders, investigators said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations responded to the charges, asking the federal government to step up protections for mosques.
“Given this alleged plan to attack a Kansas mosque, the two other hate incidents reported today against Islamic institutions in Michigan and New Jersey, and the overall spike in anti-mosque incidents nationwide, state and federal authorities should offer stepped-up protection to local communities,” executive director, Nihad Awad, said in an emailed statement to Business Insider.
“We ask our nation’s political leaders, and particularly political candidates, to reject the growing Islamophobia in our nation,” he added.
The FBI had been tracking the men since February as part of an eight-month investigation that revealed a “hidden culture of hatred and violence,” Beall said.
The men’s plot appeared to be premeditated as they conducted surveillance on potential targets and stockpiled firearms and ammunition, federal officials said.
If convicted of the terror plot, the suspects could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Revelations of the possible attack come amid a heated presidential election in which Republican candidate Donald Trump has made incendiary remarks about immigrants, and has vowed to impose a ban to keep some Muslims from entering the US.
Earlier this year a report from CAIR found a total of 78 violent attacks occurred at mosques in 2015 – up from 34 in 2014. The organization has been tracking the incidents since 2009 and said the number of attacks in 2016 could make it “one of the worst years” on record.
Here’s the Justice Department’s full statement:
Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, both 49, and of Liberal, Kansas, and Patrick Eugene Stein, 47, of Wright, Kansas, appeared in federal court to face a charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives), in connection with their plot to detonate bombs at an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas where Somali immigrants live and worship.
The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall of the District of Kansas.
“According to the complaint, these three defendants conspired to conduct a bombing attack against an apartment complex occupied by men, women and children in the Garden City, Kansas community,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Protecting our nation from such attacks, whether they are rooted in domestic or international terrorism, is our highest priority.”
“These charges are based on eight months of investigation by the FBI that is alleged to have taken the investigators deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Beall. “Many Kansans may find it as startling as I do that such things could happen here.”
The complaint alleges that since February the FBI has been investigating the defendants’ activities, including their plans to carry out a violent attack against Muslims in southwestern Kansas. The defendants were key members of a militia group that referred to itself as the Crusaders. A confidential source attended meetings of the group and provided the FBI with information about the defendants’ activities.
The criminal complaint alleges that the men conducted surveillance to identify potential targets, stockpiled firearms, ammunition and explosive components, and planned to issue a manifesto in conjunction with the planned bombing. The attack, the defendants said, would be intended to “wake people up.”
After considering possible targets, the defendants decided to conduct the attack on a Garden City, Kansas apartment complex that houses a mosque and a large number of members of the Somali community. They discussed obtaining four vehicles, filling them with explosives and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex to create a large explosion.
On Oct.12, Stein met with an undercover FBI employee in rural Finney County, Kansas. After examining and test firing automatic weapons, Stein took the source to see the apartment building that the defendants were targeting in Garden City, Kansas. Stein said he would provide ammonium nitrate for the bomb and contribute $200 to $300 for other materials.
Stein also talked with the undercover employee about defendant Allen’s arrest in a domestic violence case in Liberal, Kansas the previous day, Oct. 11. Stein said he was concerned that Allen’s girlfriend would give the Liberal Police Department in Kansas information about the defendants’ plans.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in federal prison.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Investigating agencies included the FBI, the Liberal Police Department, the Seward County Sheriff’s Office, the Ford County Sheriff’s Office, the Garden City Police Department, the Dodge City Police Department, the Finney County Sheriff’s Office, and Kansas Highway Patrol, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi for the District of Kansas and Counterterrorism Section Trial Attorney David Cora are prosecuting this case.