WICHITA, KAN. - Three members of a Kansas militia group were charged Friday with plotting to bomb an apartment building filled with Somali immigrants in the western Kansas meatpacking town of Garden City.
Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said Curtis Wayne Allen, 49; Patrick Eugene Stein, 47; and Gavin Wayne Wright, 49, are members of a small group that calls itself "the Crusaders."
Prosecutors said the men don't yet have attorneys. Publicly listed phone numbers for the men couldn't immediately be found.
The arrests were the culmination of an eight-month FBI investigation that took agents "deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence," Beall said. A confidential source attended meetings of a militia group called the Kansas Security Force in an investigation of its activities against Muslims in southwestern Kansas.
The suspects conspired to detonate a bomb at a Garden City apartment complex where Somalis were among roughly 120 residents, Beall said.
The men, who were arrested in Liberal on Friday morning, performed surveillance of the apartment building and prepared a manifesto, Beall said. If convicted, the men could be sentenced to up to life in federal prison without parole.
Eric Jackson, special agent in charge of the Kansas City, Missouri, FBI field office, said the Crusaders has militia and sovereign citizen ties.
Garden City is home to a Tyson Foods beef slaughterhouse that has drawn a diverse immigrant population to the area.
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.
Friday's arrests and charges prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations to call on state and federal law enforcement agencies across the nation to increase protection for mosques and other Islamic institutions. The group also cited reports of threats against a Michigan center and anti-Muslim graffiti at a New Jersey mosque.
"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.
Eric Tucker reported from Washington.
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