A major federal investigation stopped a domestic terrorism plot by a militia group to detonate bombs at a Garden City apartment complex where a number of Somalis live, officials said Friday.
Three southwestern Kansas men were arrested and charged in federal court with domestic terrorism charges, Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall told reporters at a news conference in downtown Wichita.
The three conspired to set off a bomb where about 120 people, including many Somalis, live, Beall said. The apartment complex in Garden City. It is also used as a mosque, officials said.
Garden City is home to a Tyson Foods beef slaughterhouse that has drawn a diverse immigrant population to the area.
Curtis Allen, 49; Gavin Wright, 49; and Patrick Stein, 47, were arrested in Liberal on Friday morning, Beall said. Allen and Wright are Liberal residents. Stein lives in Dodge City and is the owner of G&H Mobile Home Center in Liberal, Beall said.
The men are members of a small militia group called The Crusaders, Beall said. The Associated Press reported that the men are members of a group calling itself the Kansas Security Force.
The investigation involved an FBI probe “deep into a hidden culture of hatred, violence” and what amounted to a startling plot, Beall said. The FBI launched its investigation eight months ago, on Feb. 16.
The men were stockpiling weapons and were going to publish a manifesto after the bombing, which was to occur the day after the election so as not to have an effect on the election, Beall and Eric Jackson, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Kansas City, Mo.
One of the men said that the bombing “would quote, ‘wake people up,’” Beall said.
They formed a plan of violent attack targeting Somalis and settled on the apartment complex where a number lived and where some maintained an apartment that served as a mosque, he said.
The plot involved having obtaining four vehicles, filling them with explosives and detonating them, Beall said.
“These individuals had the desire, the means and the capabilities and were committed to carrying out this act of domestic terrorism,” Jackson said.
If convicted, the men could face life in federal prison.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, called on state and federal law enforcement agencies to step up protection for mosques in light of the thwarted attack.
“We ask our nation’s political leaders, and particularly political candidates, to reject the growing Islamophobia in our nation,” Nihad Awad, the group’s national executive director, said in a statement.
The case is the latest involving militia groups in the state. Earlier this year, a planned armed protest outside a Wichita mosque prompted the Islamic Society of Wichita to cancel an appearance by a speaker whom protesters believed supported terrorism.
The Justice Department’s National Security Division created a new position a year ago to help coordinate investigations into violent homegrown extremism, like the one that resulted in the three arrests.
Wichita Eagle staff writer Oliver Morrison and The Associated Press contributed.