Three held over 'bomb plot' targeting Somalis in Kansas
Published 15/10/2016 | 05:51
Three members of a Kansas militia group have been charged with plotting to bomb an apartment complex which is home to Somali immigrants in the town of Garden City.
The thwarted attack is alleged to have been planned for the day after the US election next month.
The arrests were the culmination of an eight-month FBI investigation that took agents "deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence", acting US Attorney Tom Beall said.
Curtis Wayne Allen, 49, Patrick Eugene Stein, 47, and Gavin Wayne Wright, 49, are due to appear in court on Monday charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
The men are said to be members of a small militia group that calls itself "the Crusaders", whose members espouse sovereign citizen, anti-government, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant extremist beliefs.
The complaint alleges group members chose the target based on their hatred for Muslims, people of Somali descent and immigrants - and out of a desire to inspire other militia groups and "wake people up".
The FBI began a domestic terrorism investigation of the group in February, and a confidential source attended its meetings in south-western Kansas.
In a June meeting, Stein is alleged to have brought up the Orlando nightclub shooting, and proposed carrying out a similar attack against Muslim refugees in Garden City, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors believe that they ultimately decided to target the apartment complex because of the number of Somalis who lived there and the fact that one of the apartments was used as a mosque. The complex houses about 120 Somali residents.
The complaint said Stein discussed the explosives used in the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh.
The men, who were arrested in Liberal on Friday morning, performed surveillance of the apartment building and had prepared a manifesto, Mr Beall said.
If convicted, the men could be sentenced to life in federal prison without parole.
Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Centre's Intelligence Project, called the details of the alleged plot disturbing, saying it "should serve as a warning to those who traffic in the politics of fear and bigotry".
Garden City is home to a Tyson Foods beef slaughterhouse that has drawn a diverse immigrant population to the area.
Garden City mayor Chris Law said in a statement that he was shocked by the alleged plans, adding: "Today should also serve as a reminder that vigilance should be a common practice by all citizens."