Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday thanked law enforcement officials for thwarting a planned terrorist attack against Somali refugees in Garden City.
Three men from southwest Kansas were charged in federal court on Monday with conspiring to detonate a bomb at an apartment complex where Somali Muslim immigrants live and worship.
“This could have been a horrific event,” Brownback said during a meeting with reporters. “This sort of hate and violence doesn’t have any place in this country, let alone our state. … So I applaud the FBI and other law enforcement work that they did in stopping that from taking place in Garden City.”
This sort of hate and violence doesn’t have any place in this country, let alone our state.
Gov. Sam Brownback
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The FBI had been investigating the defendants, who were part of militia groups called the Kansas Security Force and the Crusaders, since February and, through an undercover operative, learned of a plan to bomb an apartment complex that also serves as a mosque.
“No place is immune to these sort of violent efforts,” Brownback said.
Asked whether he thought rhetoric on the campaign trail has ratcheted up prejudice toward Muslims, Brownback responded: “It’s a fair question and a good question.
“I think the overall discussion in the world has been difficult. There has been lots of problems and lots of sharp words,” Brownback said. “My point in talking about it here is this sort of hate and violence has no place in this state and in this country. And I am very pleased that law enforcement caught it before anything happened.
“As far as the global rhetoric on this, that’s the atmosphere that exists,” Brownback added. “We just need to do what we can here to stop this.”
Brownback would not say whether he thought any American politicians bore responsibility for fueling anti-Muslim sentiment.
“There’s plenty of people that have contributed,” Brownback said.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in December.
Brownback stood by his decision to withdraw the state from the federal refugee resettlement program in April over President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States.
The Somali immigrants who were targeted in Garden City primarily entered the United States through the refugee program.
Brownback said his executive order was meant to prevent the resettlement of people from “countries where we know terrorists were coming from, and the purpose for that was that we cannot document the nature of the individuals coming out of these countries and we cannot particularly in a failed state like Syria.”
The federal government will continue to resettle refugees in Kansas, relying on local nonprofits rather than the state to coordinate efforts.
Brownback said he told federal officials that Kansas was willing “to take more refugees from countries where we can better document and that they’re not terrorist-sending nations.”
Asked whether he thought the refugees in Garden City had been thoroughly vetted, Brownback replied: “Probably not as well as needs to be done.”