Three members of a right-wing militia group were arrested Friday for planning an attack on a Kansas mosque and apartment complex.
Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein were arrested and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, prosecutors and FBI agents said at a press conference Friday afternoon in Wichita.
The three men were targeting the Somali community in Garden City, Kan., a town of 27,000 people in the west of the state. They planned to fill four vehicles with explosives, park them at each corner of the apartment complex and detonate them, the officials said.
The defendants, who allegedly called themselves "The Crusaders," conducted surveillance of the building, stockpiled firearms, bombs, and prepared a manifesto, he said. About 120 people lived in the apartment complex, which also included a mosque.
The attack was supposed to be carried out on the day following Election Day, Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said, and was intended to "wake people up." They suspects also allegedly considered attacking public officials who supported Somali immigrants and landlords who rented to Somalis.
The arrests came after eight months of investigation, including undercover contact with the suspects, Beall said. He called the investigation one that took the agents "deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence."
"These individuals had desire, the means, and the capability and were committed to carrying out this act of domestic terrorism," said Eric Jackson, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation.
The officials called the three men an "isolated group" and that the plot had been stopped. But Jackson declined to comment about possible links to other right-wing groups, noting that the investigation continues.
The defendants could face life in prison if convicted. No lawyers were entered for them in court documents as of Friday afternoon.
In a statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for law enforcement authorities nationwide to increase protection for mosques following the arrest of the militia members. "State and federal authorities should offer stepped-up protection to local communities," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "We ask our nation's political leaders, and particularly political candidates, to reject the growing Islamophobia in our nation."
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.