Chicago (AFP) - US federal authorities on Friday charged three men in Kansas with a plot to bomb an apartment complex where Muslim immigrants from Somalia lived and worshipped.
The men conducted surveillance, stockpiled weapons and explosive components, and prepared a manifesto saying their planned attack was to "wake people up," the Department of Justice said in a statement.
They are charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in a federal prison.
"These charges are based on eight months of investigation by the FBI that is alleged to have taken the investigators deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence," said Tom Beall, the acting US Attorney in the district of Kansas, in the statement.
The three men, two of whom were arrested Friday and a third who was already in custody, are all residents of Kansas. They were identified as Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, both 49, and Patrick Eugene Stein, 47.
The defendants allegedly targeted an apartment complex in the small town of Garden City. The building is occupied by a large number of Somali immigrants and one apartment serves as a mosque for local Somalis.
The three men are accused of planning to fill four vehicles with explosives, and parking them at each corner of the apartment complex to create a massive explosion.
The men were key members of a militia group that called itself the Crusaders, the authorities said.
Authorities said they had been investigating the men since February, in what was described as an undercover operation, and were aided by a confidential source who attended meetings of a larger militia group called the Kansas Security Force.
The defendants are scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment Monday morning, Justice Department spokesman James Cross told AFP.
Many of the Somali immigrants are reportedly employed by a Tyson Foods meat processing plant in the area, according to local television station KWCH TV.
KWCH, reporting from the site of the apartment complex -- where some 200 people live -- described the Somali community there as being in shock.
Local police were planning a meeting Saturday with community members to discuss the case.