Authorities are investigating after someone threw a homemade explosive device at an Islamic family center in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Saturday morning. There were no injuries.
First responders arrived at the Dar Al Farooq center shortly after 5 a.m. local time and found "smoke and some damage," according to a law enforcement statement. The FBI said the explosion was caused by a "destructive device in violation of federal law."
Police are working with federal and state law enforcement partners to determine exactly what caused the explosion. The FBI Minneapolis Field Office is the lead investigative agency, according to the Bloomington Police Department.
"At this point in the investigation, we're not in a position to say anything to motive or anything like that. It's just too early on," Mike Hartley, deputy chief of police, told BuzzFeed News on Saturday.
Officials have not said whether they are treating the incident as a hate crime. Hartley said there are no suspects yet and that "nothing significant" in terms of hate crimes have recently occurred in the area.
On Sunday, elected officials gathered to emphasize their support for the Islamic center and local Islamic community. Gov. Mark Dayton said if a similar incident had happened at a church or other house of worship, it would immediately be considered terrorism.
"That’s what it is — it's an act of terrorism," he said. "A criminal act of terrorism."
He added that he believed it was a hate crime, and he hoped the perpetrator would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"In Minnesota we accept one another, we support one another, we respect one another," he said. "We live together, we work together, we succeed together, and we’re not going to let one bad person get in the way of all that."
In a statement, Acting US Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said that the department was aware of the blast, and is in contact with law enforcement agencies investigating the incident.
"The Department of Homeland Security fully supports the rights of all to freely and safely worship the faith of their choosing and we vigorously condemn such attacks on any religious institution," Duke said. "We are thankful that there were no injuries, but that does not diminish the serious nature of this threat."
The police department has asked the public to submit any information that may be related.
The Star Tribune reported that "damage was largely confined to the imam’s office." Hartley confirmed "there is damage inside an office," but said it was "hard to say the extent of the damage."
Hartley said he did not have available the number of people who were in the area at the time of the blast, but the Tribune reported that some 15 to 20 people are usually gathered at the center for morning prayer. Hartley said the center would be closed for rest of the day and that it was unclear when it would reopen.
Mohamed Omar, executive director of the center, told the Tribune that a worshipper reported seeing a pickup truck speed out of the parking lot after the blast occurred.
The center is located in a largely residential area with a park directly north of it. Reporters on the scene tweeted photos of the center blocked off by police tape.
One video showed a gathering of people outside in a rally-like setting, showing people chanting and calling for unity.
"An attack on a mosque is like an attack on a synagogue or a church or any other worship place, so the only question I have left for all of us is can we all come together as people," Mahmud Kanyare said in the video.
Kanyare, a St. Paul resident who occasionally attends events at the center, told BuzzFeed News that Omar, the center's director, told a group this morning that people finishing their morning prayer heard the explosion. Kanyare said Omar described it as being so loud “the whole building shook.”
While on the scene, Kanyare said he was able to see a broken window, but that authorities were not allowing anyone to enter the building.
“It just feels tragic because this is a worship place,” Kanyare told BuzzFeed News, pointing out that children and parents are often there for activities like basketball. “We hope to get some answers soon.”
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the community center for comment. The FBI Minneapolis Field Office referred BuzzFeed News to the Bloomington Police Department for questions.
Madihha Ahussain with the group Muslim Advocates called the explosion a tragedy.
"While details of the explosion are still under investigation, we cannot ignore that this type of destruction comes at a time when houses of worship are increasingly becoming targets of hate, and communities regularly fear for their safety," she said in a statement.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the blast.
"The swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrator will send a clear message that attacks on mosques, or on any other American houses of worship, will not be tolerated," CAIR's executive director, Nihad Awad, said in a statement.
The organization has also called on other Islamic centers and mosques in the US to step up security in the wake of the Minnesota incident.
Lissandra Villa is a politics reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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