US federal authorities have announced the arrest of three men charged with attempting to set off a bomb in northwest Kansas.
Tom Beall, acting US attorney, announced on Friday that the Kansas men were charged in a domestic terrorism plot to bomb an apartment complex in Wichita suburbs where several Somali immigrant families lived and worshipped.
The three men – identified by Beall as Curtis Allen, 49, Gavin Wright, 49, and Patrick Stein, 47 – were arrested in Liberal on Friday morning.
Allen and Wright are Liberal residents. Stein lives in Wright and is a business owner in Liberal, Beall said.
He said the men belonged to a small right-wing militia group called The Crusaders.
The men planned to set off the bomb on November 9 so as not to affect the US presidential elections, which takes place a day earlier, according to federal investigators.
Nihad Awad, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told Al Jazeera the plot was enabled in part by the anti-Muslim environment in the country created by the right wing of the Republican Party in general and the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, in particular.
“Trump’s repeated anti-Muslim racist statements created an environment of hatred and bigotry against Muslims in this election year. Trump’s words encouraged domestic terrorist groups to commit acts of terrorism and violence against our community members,” he said.
‘Hidden culture of hatred’
Beall said the FBI investigation uncovered a “deep hidden culture of hatred and violence”.
The FBI launched its investigation eight months ago – on February 16.
“These individuals had the desire, the means and the capabilities and were committed to carrying out this act of domestic terrorism,” Eric Jackson, FBI special agent in charge, said on Friday.
Awad said: “The Republican party has used every media outlet at its disposal to demonise Muslims in the US and outside, giving hate groups ammunition and justifications to plot against American Muslims.”
Moussa Elbayoumy, CAIR chairman for the state of Kansas City, condemned the plot against Muslim community members, whom he described as a “small and diverse group of residents who also have complained of racist treatments against them in the past”.
According to the FBI investigation, The Crusader group had stockpiled explosives and weapons to use the day after the general elections and published a “manifesto” about their plot.
Investigators quoted one of the plotters as saying the explosion would “wake people up”.
The FBI said the men also planned to detonate car bombs around the apartment complex.
“It is very concerning and very disheartening,” Hussam Madi, spokesman for the Islamic Society of Wichita, said of the planned attack.
“I thank God that they were able to be caught before anything can happen. We don’t need such actions here within our community and our country.”