People make phone calls following an explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn. (David Joles/Star Tribune/AP)
People make phone calls following an explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn. (David Joles/Star Tribune/AP)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton denounced an explosion that rocked a Minneapolis-area mosque during morning prayers Saturday as a “wretched” hate crime and act of terrorism.

“What a terrible, dastardly, cowardly act was committed,” Dayton said during a tour of the building Sunday, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Anything I can do to put a stop to it, I would gladly do.”

No one was injured in the blast at Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., which took place as a small number of worshipers gathered shortly after 5 a.m. An FBI official said it was caused by an “improvised explosive device.”

Mohamed Omar, the center’s executive director, told The Washington Post he was inside the mosque preparing for morning prayers when he felt a “huge explosion” that quickly caused smoke and flames. Omar said another person present later told him he had heard the sound of a window breaking and then a pickup truck fleeing outside.

“The sprinkler system went off and immediately water came down,” Omar said. “We didn’t know what was happening but it was scary.”

Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said 15 to 20 worshipers are typically present for morning prayers. The explosion took place inside the imam’s office, which was next to a prayer area in the mosque, Hussein said. Another “overflow” prayer area behind the imam’s office was also empty, he added.

“If it was Ramadan or one of the busier times, all of the space would be used,” Hussein said.

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 attack was quickly condemned by religious leaders and politicians. Hussein said a “standing opposition group” has regularly protested against the mosque — and sometimes its mere existence — since it opened in 2011.

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SOURCE: Karin Brulliard and Amy B Wang  
The Washington Post

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