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Men accused of Bloomington mosque bombing charged with hate crimes

The three men from Illinois traveled to Minnesota to carry out the bombing, charges say.

The pipe bombing of a mosque in Bloomington last summer has led to federal hate crime and civil rights violation charges against three militia members from Illinois.

A new, five-count indictment against Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 23, accuses them with "interfering with ... free expression of religious liberty" after allegedly throwing a pipe bomb into the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center on Aug. 5, 2017.

The explosion and fire damaged the imam's office just as morning prayers were due to start, but fortunately didn't injure anybody.

The three men, who had formed a militia group in rural Illinois that identified itself as the "White Rabbits," had already been charged with arson in connection with the bombing, as well as separate weapons offenses after authorities found a machine gun in their possession.

Now they're facing hate crime and civil rights charges, as well as charges of using a destructive device, according to an indictment released on Thursday.

The three carried out the attack for the "purpose of making Muslims feel frightened and intimidated," the charges state.

"These three defendants allegedly plotted and executed a plan designed specifically to spread fear and threaten a fundamental right afforded to all, the freedom of religion," said Minnesota's U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald.

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"In spite of this destructive and violent act alleged in the indictment, our communities have found strength in taking a unified stand against the attack. My office and our law enforcement partners are committed to upholding the laws that protect the civil rights of all Americans."

Hari allegedly made the bomb and together with the other two, rented a pickup truck in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and drove to Minnesota, stopping on the way to pick up diesel and gas that they mixed in a plastic container.

Morris then used a sledgehammer to break a window at the mosque and threw the container inside. McWhorther allegedly lit the fuse on the pipe bomb and threw it through the window, and when it exploded it ignited the gas mixture.

They then returned to the pickup where Hari was waiting, and sped off back to Illinois.

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