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Minnesota mosque explosion raises fears

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Worshipers conducted afternoon prayers Saturday outside the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., after an explosion at the mosque.
Worshipers conducted afternoon prayers Saturday outside the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., after an explosion at the mosque.Aaron Lavinsky

MINNEAPOLIS — The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in suburban Minneapolis, like other US mosques, occasionally receives threatening calls and e-mails. But leaders say they are frightened after a weekend attack in which an explosion shattered windows and damaged a room as worshipers prepared for morning prayers.

''We feel like it's much deeper and scarier than like something random,'' Mohamed Omar, the center's executive director, said Sunday. ''It's so scary.''

No one was hurt in the blast, which happened about 5 a.m. Saturday. Windows of the imam's office were shattered, either by the blast or by an object thrown through them. The FBI is seeking suspects and trying to determine whether the incident was a hate crime.


Governor Mark Dayton, who joined other public officials and community leaders for a meeting inside the building Sunday, described the bombing as ''so wretched'' and ''not Minnesota.''

''This is an act of terrorism. This is against the law in America,'' Dayton said at a news conference, the Star Tribune reported.

Besides serving as a place of worship and community center, the mosque in Bloomington, just south of Minneapolis, has a fitness center, gymnasiums for boys and girls, a football field and adjoins a city park, Omar said.

He estimates the mosque holds up to 300 worshipers for Friday prayers. The community center also hosts computer classes, a basketball league, religious classes, lectures and other events.

''It's a place that a family can come and get everything they need,'' Omar said.

The mosque opened in 2011 in the suburb of Bloomington and serves people primarily from the area's large Somali community.

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the US, roughly 57,000 people, according to the latest census figures.

Some residents opposed the center's opening, and complaints have been made about parking, noise and traffic, the Star Tribune reported. Omar said the center gets along with ''92, 93 percent'' of its neighbors.


And while the mosque has received threatening calls and messages, Deputy Bloomington Police Chief Mike Hartley said Sunday he was unware of any hate crimes reported at the center.

Saturday's bombing comes amid a rise in reports of anti-Muslim incidents in the US, including arson attacks and vandalism at mosques, harassment of women wearing Muslim head coverings, and bullying of Muslim schoolchildren. Just recently in Minnesota, an Islamic cemetery in Castle Rock Township reported it had been vandalized with spray painted profanities and swastikas.