Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department for Records about Suspicious 2014 New Year’s Day Explosion in Minneapolis Muslim Neighborhood
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records regarding its response to the January 1, 2014, explosion of an apartment building in the largely Muslim Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, MN. The lawsuit was filed June 16, 2015, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No.1:15-cv-00925)).
Judicial Watch filed a request with the Justice Department September 18, 2014. On October 31, 2014, the Justice Department told Judicial Watch in a letter that the agency was granting itself a 10-day extension to respond. Though the response was then due November 17, 2014, Judicial Watch has yet to receive any correspondence or documents related to its request.
The lawsuit seeks communications from the DOJ, including those of then- Attorney General Eric Holder, about the deadly Minneapolis explosion. At 8:16 a.m. on New Year’s Day 2014 in Minneapolis, a building at 516 Cedar Avenue, containing a grocery store and several apartments exploded, killing three people and injuring 13. Single Somali men occupied all the building’s apartments.
The apartment building was also adjacent to the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Civic Center, a mosque, which lists the Muslim Brotherhood as a contact on its website “Links” page. Immediately after the blast, FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said the agency knew of the explosion, “but it would be sheer speculation to theorize what may have occurred here as far as any mosque or any other business in the area.” Within 48 hours, the FBI denied any terrorist activity was associated with the explosion.
Documents obtained by Judicial Watch from the State Fire Marshal Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, however, reveal that authorities did not thoroughly investigate the explosion.
In his January 10, 2014, report, Deputy State Fire Marshal Investigator Ronald C. Rahman admitted, “I did not retain any evidentiary artifacts from the scene.”
Before the building’s destruction, Gerald Schmidt, fire investigator for the Minneapolis Fire Department, and the official investigating the scene on the day of the explosion reported, “The origin of the fire is undetermined.”
Documents previously obtained through a Judicial Watch lawsuit (Judicial Watch v U. S. Department of Justice (No.1:14-cv-02212)) revealed that a supervisor ordered ATF agents not to investigate the explosion. In an April 15, 2014, email from a St. Paul ATF group supervisor to a colleague, the supervisor wrote, “additionally, at the request of the Minneapolis Fire Department, ATF did not respond to this incident.”
According to a January 13, 2014, ATF “Report of Investigation,” ATF agents “were notified (the document does not say by whom) … that the City of Minneapolis was intending on tearing down the structure prior to a scene examination taking place.”
The building was owned by Garad Nor, the owner of a money-transfer company, who had initially been implicated as a terrorist financier by the U.S. Treasury Department. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
[W]ithin months of the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. agents raided and blocked the accounts of five Minneapolis money-transfer operations, including his company Aaran Money Wire Service Inc.
Nor, who also goes by the name Garad Jama, was in Dubai the day he learned through CNN that his name was listed among 62 individuals and organizations that the U.S. government said had helped fund Osama bin Laden.
He returned immediately to defend himself, and nine months later, after he sued several members of then-President George W. Bush’s cabinet, Nor’s name was finally removed from the United Nations list of entities believed to have terrorist ties. The U.S. Treasury Department unfroze his business’ assets.
“One must wonder why on Earth the Justice Department would cover up details of its handling of this suspicious explosion,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Everything about this incident stinks. Certainly, the Obama administration’s illegal stonewalling adds further to the suspicion that this explosion was no accident, and is tied to Islamic terrorism.”