Three members of a far-right militia group were arrested on Friday for plotting to bomb an apartment complex in Garden City, Kan., where about 120 Somali refugees live.
In a criminal complaint, federal prosecutors charge the three men – Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright, and Patrick Stein – with domestic terrorism, after the FBI carried out an eight-month investigation into a group known as "the Crusaders," whose members, investigators say, espouse "sovereign citizen, anti-government, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant extremist beliefs."
The three men are accused of stockpiling nearly 2,000 pounds of firearms and explosives in preparation for a Nov. 9 attack on the complex, which also houses a mosque. The men are also said to have written a manifesto to be published after the bombings.
“They chose the target location based on their hatred of these groups, their perception that these groups represent a threat to American society, a desire to inspire other militia groups, and a desire to “wake people up’,” reads the complaint.
The incident is the first terror plot targeting refugees in the United States in recent memory. It comes about a month after the Obama administration announced that it would raise the number of refugees admitted this fiscal year to 110,000 from 85,000 in FY 2016, about a 30 percent increase. It earlier said that it expected to meet its target of welcoming 10,000 refugees from Syria by Oct. 1, ahead of schedule.
Conservative lawmakers have expressed security concerns about welcoming refugees, warning that members of the self-proclaimed Islamic State and other extremist groups could use the resettlement program to enter the country and stage attacks. Opposition has taken on darker shades among far-right (or “alt-right”) quarters, which often describe the program as an “invasion” that amounts to “national suicide” for the US.
And those voices have gotten a mainstream platform in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
Until now, though, turmoil over refugees seeking safe haven in the United States has remained a matter of political rhetoric, with the actual resettlement program unfolding without major incident, often in smaller cities where the costs of living are lower – and where everyday life is subject to less news media attention.
That doesn’t mean that fear or resentment don’t exist. In Garden City, a meatpacking town that has received several hundred Somali refugees, some residents express “a general sentiment of, ‘Why are we letting these refugees in here? Why are we? They’re taking our jobs, plus they’re Muslim,’ ” said local physician John Birky, who has spearheaded initiatives to provide services to refugees, in an interview with CBS.
Similar conflicts have played out on a much broader scale in Germany, with refugee shelters targeted in over 1,000 attacks in 2015, according to government figures. And the broader public, which originally welcomed the unprecedented tide of newcomers, has grown uneasy after a Syrian and an Afghan refugee carried out two separate attacks against civilians.
Muslims around the world have begun using Twitter to repudiate acts of of Islamic terrorism, as The Christian Science Monitor’s Sara Miller Llana noted in November. Muslims in many countries had already responded to Islamic State atrocities with a simple hashtag: #NotInMyName.
Now, in the wake of the Paris attacks – and the enormous flow of refugees into Europe this summer – it's Europe's migrants who are feeling targeted. A new online campaign has launched to challenge the growing conflation of terrorism with migration: #IAmAMigrant.