2 US terror militia members admit role in attack on Minnesota mosque

The Dar Al-Farooq Youth and Family Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Courtesy: Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center via Facebook)
Updated 25 January 2019

2 US terror militia members admit role in attack on Minnesota mosque

  • Suspects confess to being members of an Illinois militia group whose aim is to scare Muslims into leaving the US
  • The suspects were behind the fire-bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Hoping to scare Muslims into leaving the US, members of an Illinois militia group rented a truck and drove more than 500 miles (805 kilometers) to bomb a Minnesota mosque, two men admitted Thursday.
Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris said that when they arrived at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017, they broke a window and threw a lit pipe bomb and a gasoline mixture inside, causing an explosion, fire and extensive damage. No one was injured in the attack, which happened just as morning prayers were about to begin, shaking members of the local Muslim community.
McWhorter, 29, and Morris, 23, of Clarence, Illinois, each pleaded guilty Thursday to five counts in connection with the mosque attack, the attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic, armed robberies and other crimes.
A third defendant, 47-year-old Michael Hari, whom prosecutors said directed the bombing, remains in federal custody in Illinois.
The plea agreements portray Hari as the ringleader of a militia group called the White Rabbits, which included Hari, McWhorter, Morris and at least five other people. Hari’s trial is set for July.
The guilty pleas of McWhorter and Morris came a day before three members of another militia were set to be sentenced for a foiled plot to massacre Muslims in southwest Kansas by blowing up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants. That attack, planned for the day after the November 2016 election, was thwarted after another member of the group tipped off authorities.
In the Minnesota mosque bombing, Hari allegedly picked Dar Al-Farooq because it was far enough away from the White Rabbits’ central Illinois hometown that he thought they wouldn’t be suspected. He also allegedly believed it was a focal point for terror recruiting, a claim that law enforcement has not substantiated.




This undated photo provided by the Sherburne County Jail shows Illinois miligtia member Joe Morris. (Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

Morris’ attorney, Robert Richman, said Morris merely followed the lead of Hari, a man he’d known as a father figure since he was 9.
“Hari essentially weaponized Joe Morris,” Richman said.
McWhorter’s attorney, Chris Madel, said: “Human beings are a lot more complicated than what some people believe, and Michael McWhorter’s story has yet to be told.”
Morris and McWhorter could each face at least 35 years in prison.
Neither attorney would say whether his client would cooperate or testify against Hari. Messages left with Hari’s attorneys in Illinois and Minnesota were not immediately returned.
The plea agreements say the men targeted the mosque to interfere with the free exercise of religion by Muslims and to let Muslims know they were not welcome in the United States.
It’s not clear how the White Rabbits became aware of Dar Al-Farooq, but the mosque was in headlines in recent years: Some young people from Minnesota who traveled to Syria to join the Daesh group had worshipped there. Mosque leaders were never accused of any wrongdoing.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, said McWhorter and Morris wanted the Muslim community to be fearful and run away.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said.
According to the plea agreements, the men were headed toward Minnesota when Hari told McWhorter and Morris that he had a pipe bomb in the vehicle and they were going to bomb a mosque.
When the three arrived at Dar Al-Farooq, Hari gave Morris a sledgehammer and told him to break a window, the plea agreements say. McWhorter then lit the fuse on the pipe bomb and threw it inside; Morris threw the gasoline mixture.
McWhorter and Morris also pleaded guilty to their roles in a failed attack on a Champaign, Illinois, abortion clinic in November 2017. A pipe bomb that Morris said he and Hari threw into the clinic did not explode.
The plea agreements say Hari, McWhorter, Morris and others also participated in an armed home invasion in Ambia, Indiana, and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.
Morris and McWhorter also admitted to attempting to extort Canadian National Railway by threatening to damage tracks if the railroad didn’t pay them money.
A fourth man, Ellis Mack of Clarence, already pleaded guilty to two counts in Illinois. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in April.


Meghan seeks to stop tabloid naming friends in UK legal battle

Updated 09 July 2020

Meghan seeks to stop tabloid naming friends in UK legal battle

  • Meghan is taking on Mail on Sunday to court
  • Duchess says 5 friends have right to privacy

LONDON: Meghan, Britain's Duchess of Sussex, on Thursday sought a court order to stop the publisher of the Mail on Sunday tabloid from revealing the names of five friends who could be witnesses in an ongoing legal dispute, according to a court filing.
Meghan, wife of Queen Elizabeth's grandson Prince Harry, is suing publisher Associated Newspapers over articles the Mail on Sunday printed last year that included parts of a handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018.
Markle and his daughter have not spoken since he pulled out of appearing at her wedding to Harry in May 2018.
The Mail justified publishing the letter by saying five unnamed friends of Meghan had put her version of events in interviews with the U.S. magazine People.
Her legal team say it was untrue she had authorised or arranged for her friends to tell People about the letter, and on Thursday said Associated Newspapers were threatening to publish their names.
"These five women are not on trial, and nor am I. The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial," Meghan said in a witness statement to London's High Court reviewed by Reuters.
"Each of these women is a private citizen... and each has a basic right to privacy," she added, saying their names had appeared in a confidential section of her legal papers.
A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday said the newspaper had "no intention" of publishing the names of the friends this weekend, but said it had told Meghan's lawyers that the question of their confidentiality should be considered by the court.
"Their evidence is at the heart of the case and we see no reason why their identities should be kept secret," he said.
Meghan, Harry and their baby son Archie are living in Los Angeles, having stepped down from royal duties at the end of March, partly because of intense media intrusion into their lives.
In documents filed last week as part of Meghan’s privacy case, her lawyers said her friends had spoken out because of the "tremendous emotional distress" caused by "false" British tabloid press articles.
In May, the judge in the case rejected part of her claim that the paper had acted dishonestly and stoked the rift with her father. The full trial is not expected until next year.