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3 men get at least 25 years in prison US plot to kill Somali Muslims
Africa

3 men get at least 25 years in prison US plot to kill Somali Muslims

Three men were sentenced Friday to at least 25 years in federal prison for attempting to blow up an apartment complex in western Kansas where Somali Muslims lived, a plot that unnerved that refugee community. Patrick Eugene Stein and Curtis Allen of Kansas and Gavin Wright of Oklahoma chose the apartment complex in Garden City, a city of 26,000, partly because it contained a mosque, authorities said. "Today's sentence is a significant victory against hate crimes and domestic terrorism," acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a news release Friday from the Justice Department. "The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill innocent people on the basis of their religion and national origin. That's not just illegal -- it's morally repugnant." The Somalis -- who settled in Garden City because of employment in the meatpacking industry -- appreciate the support they've received in the town and do not intend to harm anyone, according to one woman who spoke after the sentences were handed down. "Please, we need peace and love," said Ifrah Farah, a member of the Somali community, according to CNN affiliate KWCH in Wichita. "Because we came here for better lives. We are refugees. We live here. We are not bad people. We love everybody." The three men were found guilty in April on one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy to violate the housing rights of their intended victims. The jury also convicted Wright of lying to the FBI in a matter involving domestic terrorism. The men referred to Muslims as cockroaches and, in the words of prosecutors, "described in the most extreme and violent terms what they planned to do to them." The FBI conducted an eight-month investigation. The three defendants held several meetings to discuss their plan and took "significant steps -- including making and testing explosives," according to the US government. "A confidential source, whom the government credited for thwarting the attack and saving the lives of innocent victims, recorded numerous conversations during which the defendants discussed and refined their plan," the Justice Department said. "As the plan solidified, the defendants discussed obtaining four vehicles, filling them with explosives, and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex to create an explosion that would be sure to level the building and kill its occupants." Stein met with an undercover FBI agent in an effort to obtain a bomb, the department said. The agent posed as a black market arms dealer. On Friday, Allen was sentenced to 25 years, while Wright got 26 years and Stein 30 years. "Today's sentencing speaks to the FBI's commitment to protect the communities we serve and our continued obligation to disrupt plots where the intent is to commit violence and harm others," said Darrin Jones, special agent in charge of the FBI Kansas City Division.