A suspect broke into a south Minneapolis mosque over the weekend, stealing money, damaging 15 doors, and causing $50,000 worth of damages and losses, according to the Minnesota chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
The burglary at Tawfiq Islamic Center was captured by the mosque’s video surveillance, said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein. It began around 11:17 p.m. Sunday and lasted until just before midnight. No arrests have been made.
“We don’t know the motive, but obviously they did steal donations and made extensive damage to the mosque,” Jaylani said.
Jayalani described the suspect as a male in his 20s or 30s, and said he appeared to be well organized. The person entered the mosque through the back gym door and proceeded to break into most, if not all of the mosque’s rooms. The person also broke into and stole money from multiple safes.
It’s too early to say whether bias played a role in the break-in, Jaylani said.
“Any targeting of a mosque is considered a threat to the community, and we don’t rule that out,” he said
CAIR-MN shared photos of the break in on Facebook, showing doors with shattered glass and an office with paper strewn about and a damaged desk flipped onto its side.
Minneapolis police Officer Garret Parten, a department spokesperson, said in a written statement that officers collected evidence from the incident and are investigating. The man captured on the mosque’s cameras is currently the only suspect, Parten said.
“Preliminary information indicates that theft was the motivation for this burglary,” Parten said. “However, due to the location of the burglary, MPD [Minneapolis Police Department] investigators will evaluate available evidence for indications that this burglary and property damage was motivated by hate or bias.”
Tawfiq Islamic Center opened its doors in its current location in the Seward neighborhood in 2014. Its worshippers are mostly Oromo.
“When we looked at the footage, we knew it was him,” Ahmed said. “He was just waiting for someone to leave.”
Surveillance footage of the incident reviewed by Sahan Journal shows a man in a hooded sweatshirt using a large crowbar to break into the mosque. Throughout the footage, he methodically breaks through doors, forces open various donation boxes, and breaks into a safe.
Several factors in the footage had people like Nasir Hamza, principal of the Tawfiq Academy, questioning whether the incident was just a simple burglary and theft. Nasir questioned why the man trashed the executive director’s office and attempted to break into the imam’s office, which is upstairs in a hard-to-access area.
“We’ve never seen this guy here,” Nasir said. “How he knows this–how he got up here–is fishy and suspicious. It looks like it’s planned.”
“That’s why we want the FBI assistance,” Jaylani said. “Because in these situations, we know that they have more resources pertaining to white supremacist groups or people who are inspired by white supremacy.”