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Man arrested and charged with arson in two Minneapolis mosque fires, federal prosecutors say

<i>US Attorney's Office
US Attorney's Office

By Chris Boyette and Dakin Andone, CNN

Authorities have arrested and charged with arson a man federal prosecutors said is responsible for setting fires at two Minneapolis mosques and separately spray-painting the district office door of a Muslim American member of Congress, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.

Jackie Rahm Little, 36, also known as Joel Arthur Tueting, was arrested Saturday by the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office before being taken into federal custody a day later by agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the release said.

Little had a court appearance Monday but didn’t enter a plea, CNN affiliate WCCO reported. He has a “known history of arson or suspected arson,” including one incident occurring just last year, according to the affidavit in support of the complaint against him.

It was not clear if Little has an attorney.

According to the affidavit, Little allegedly started a fire the evening of April 23 in a bathroom at the Masjid Omar Islamic Center, located in what’s commonly known within the community as Somali Mall.

On April 24, the affidavit says, Little was seen in surveillance footage going into the Masjid Al-Rahma Mosque, or Mercy Islamic Center, where a fire erupted on the third floor soon after, prompting an evacuation, including about 40 children. The damage likely totaled tens of thousands of dollars, the affidavit says, citing a mosque representative.

No one was hurt in either incident.

The fires came months after Little allegedly harassed a member of the US House of Representatives, whose name was redacted from the affidavit. The office of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar confirmed she was the representative targeted.

Little sent emails to the representative’s congressional email account in late December, the affidavit says. In January, surveillance footage showed him entering the representative’s district office, and he allegedly spray-painted “500” on the front door. Little spray-painted the same “500” on the side of a patrol vehicle belonging to a Somali officer for the Minneapolis Police Department and in an entryway to Somali Mall, the affidavit said.

The meaning of the graffiti is unknown, the affidavit said.

In a statement, Omar thanked federal and local law enforcement for bringing “this suspect to justice.”

“We are witnessing an epidemic of hate against the Muslim community and other religious minorities in Minnesota and globally right now,” Omar said. “This campaign of terror is designed to keep us fearful and divided. As Muslim-Americans and as Minnesotans, we will not be terrorized. We will continue to stand united against bigotry because love is stronger than hate.”

In cases where no one is hurt, a conviction on a federal arson charge carries a minimum sentence of five years up to 20, according to the Department of Justice.

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