Blast rocks Bloomington Islamic center

Early morning worshipers at a Bloomington mosque were shaken Saturday by an explosion that blew out windows in the imam’s office.

The blast was reported at the Dar AL Farooq Islami Center at 5:05 a.m., a time when 15 to 20 people were gathered for morning prayers. No one was hurt, and damage was largely confined to the imam’s office, but congregants and neighbors were shocked and shaken.

Mohamed Omar, executive director of the center, said one worshiper saw a pickup truck speed out of the mosque’s parking lot just after the blast.

After an initial response by Bloomington police, agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took over the investigation, and the area was cordoned off by yellow police tape all morning.

Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts said when officers arrived after 911 calls about the blast, they found smoke and fire damage to the building.

Neighbors across the street from the mosque reported waking up to a loud bang or pop, some even feeling the concussion reverberate through windows.

Up to 20 people are typically on hand for the 5 a.m. prayer, the first of the day.

“It was 5 a.m.,” Omar said. “The whole neighborhood was calm. People were supposed to be sleeping, that’s how peaceful this should be. I was shocked to learn this happened.”

Omar said the center has received threatening or hateful phone calls and emails in the past. Usually, he said, it’s “people talking about us, telling us, accusing us that we shouldn’t be here, that we are like a burden to the community or we are like harming it.”

Mosque leaders plan a noon news conference.

Trevin Miller, who lives across the street from the mosque, said he has heard occasional fireworks in the neighborhood, but nothing like Saturday morning’s explosion.

“It woke us up instead of my alarm,” he said. “It was loud, it was kind of like a firework-car crash-gunshot. It kind of shook me — like, you could feel it. I thought maybe somebody drove through our house or something. I jumped up and came out here to make sure … no one was sitting in our living room.”

“I felt it on my insides. … I have a daughter that usually lives with me, and to wake up to all this, it’s like, what the hell, this shouldn’t be happening right at our doorstep.”

Asad Zaman, director of the local Muslim-American Society, condemned what he called “an arson attack” and said his organization will offer a $10,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest or conviction.

While saying it was too early to assign motive, Zaman cited an “Islamophobic tendency that has been fairly pronounced [in] recent memory.”

“Hate is not OK,” Zaman said. “We need a better America. We need an America where people are safe with their neighbors. Targeting people because of their race, ethnicity or religion is absolutely un-American.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Bloomington police at 952-563-4900.

-Star Tribune