Robert Gehl reports authorities are investigating a shocking explosion at a Minnesota mosque during Saturday morning prayers, likely caused by an “improvised explosive device.”
There were no injuries at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, which took place as a small number of worshippers were assembled shortly after the 5 a.m. call to prayers.
Mohamed Omar, the center’s executive director, said he was inside the mosque preparing when he felt a “huge explosion” that quickly caused smoke and flames, ABC News reports.
He said he heard the sound of a window breaking and then saw a pickup truck racing away.
“The sprinkler system went off and immediately water came down,” Omar said. “We didn’t know what was happening but it was scary.”
There are typically 15-20 Muslims present for the early morning prayers, Jaylania Hussein with Minnesota’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic relations. The explosion took place inside the imam’s office, next to the prayer area, he said. He said had the explosion gone off later in the morning, there almost certainly would have been casualties.
Rick Thornton, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the investigation, told reporters Saturday afternoon that the blast was caused by an “improvised explosive device” but offered no further details about its composition or possible suspects. Neither the FBI nor the Bloomington Police Department, which initially responded to the explosion, speculated on a motive for the incident.
“At this point, our focus is to determine who and why,” Thornton said at a news conference. “Is it a hate crime? Is it an act of terror?…Again, that’s what the investigation is going to determine.”
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement Saturday evening saying that acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke is aware and the DHS is “in close contact with federal, state and local authorities and local community leaders as the investigation into this matter continues.”
Asad Zaman, director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, condemned the explosion at the mosque, which serves as a religious center and community organizing platform for Muslims in the area. Zaman said the blast appears to be a hate crime, and the society is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest or conviction.
The Minnesota chapter CAIR was also offering a $10,000 reward.