BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Bloomington Police said there were reports of an explosion at the Dar Al Farooq Community Center at 8201 Park Avenue in Bloomington.
According to police, the incident occurred around 5:05 a.m. There were no injuries reported.
Eyewitnesses and neighbors reported hearing an explosion in the early morning hours on Saturday, waking them up from their sleep. One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he lives the next block over. He said he did not hear the explosion, but his wife did.
Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts said in a press conference held outside the community center that because this is an active investigation, there wasn’t much to report. Chief Potts confirmed that Bloomington Police and fire department were called at 5:05 a.m. to Dar al Farooq Community Center on a report of an explosion. When police and fire officials arrived they found some smoke, some damage to the building but no one was hurt. Police are working with the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Bloomington Bomb Squad, who were all on the scene this morning. Chief Potts encouraged those with information to step forward and updates will be posted on the Bloomington Police Department Twitter page.
Cont (3): BPD is working alongside our law enforcement partners from the FBI and ATF to determine the cause of the explosion. pic.twitter.com/tleSQfKaON
— Bloomington Police (@BPD_MN) August 5, 2017
Mohamed Omar, a spokesman for the Dar al Farooq Islamic Center told Alpha News a device was thrown into the Imam’s office at the center. Omar said he felt this was an intentional act.
“Somebody who was driving a pickup truck next to the center and did something to the window, broke the window or threw something into the Imam’s office and there was an explosion and smoke came out from the room,” Omar said.
Omar said the congregation was praying when the explosion occurred and contacted the police. Omar said one of the congregants witnessed a vehicle he described to authorities as a pickup truck.
Although Bloomington police are not currently labeling this as a hate crime, Asad Zaman, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota labeled it as such in a press statement outside the Dar al Farooq center,
“The Muslim American Society of Minnesota condemns this arson and attack and the Muslim American Society offers a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist responsible,” Zaman said. “All indication indicate it is probably Islamophobic tendency has been fairly pronounced of recent memory. Dar al Farooq Center has been the recipient of a lot of hate messaging and this is also consistent with the general prevalent attitude of Islamophobia that is being promoted.”
When asked about other past incidents at Dar al Farooq, although not naming a specific incident, Omar said the center has received messages, emails and phone calls saying that they shouldn’t be here and are a burden to the community.
There has been friction between the Dar al Farooq Mosque/Community Center and the neighborhood in the past.
In July 2016, Alpha News reported “Friends of Smith Park” (FOSP), an organization of residents living near the mosque, presented a “Petition of Redress” to the Bloomington City Council during a July 25, 2016 meeting. In the petition, the group asked that the city council enforce Bloomington’s laws by addressing years of violations of the Conditional Use Permit and Joint Use Agreement granted to the Dar al Farooq Mosque in 2011. The petition stated residents were unable to enjoy the park as the Mosque and its congregants dominated the park and residents were no longer able to enjoy quiet use of their property.
Attorney for “Friends of Smith Park,” Larry Frost, who was on the scene at Dar al Farooq this morning, told Alpha News that the organization he represents has been having problems with the mosque not following Conditional Use Permits (CUP) for the past five years.
“The tragedy here is someone has actually attempted to attack the Mosque somehow. My question, as somebody who has been a marine corps demo guy, is if it was an explosive device in a small room like that, I’d expect to see glass blown out, the other windows aren’t broken. So, my guess it was that it was some kind of incendiary device, that’s kind of what we know now, but police obviously will be releasing more facts as they investigate. It seems odd to me the Imam said they saw someone standing by the window and drove off but no one has a description of the individual, at least not what they released publicly, or a license plate. I asked the Imam about that and they said they didn’t have that.”
Bloomington police are asking anyone with information to please contact the Bloomington Police Department at 952-563-4900.