JW Investigation Uncovers Questions about Minneapolis Explosion

When an explosion occurs in a Muslim neighborhood at a building owned by a person previously implicated as a terrorist financier, one would think that authorities might conduct a thorough investigation. But the results of an independent Judicial Watch investigation – that required a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to get key information – shows that authorities dropped the ball on the deadly January 1, 2014, explosion.

At 8:16 a.m. on New Year’s Day in Minneapolis, a building at 516 Cedar Avenue containing a grocery store and several apartments exploded, killing three people and injuring 13. All of the apartments were occupied by single men. Many were hurt while jumping out of the burning building’s windows in order to escape the carnage.

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:

But within 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.

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 that the agency was aware 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.” Amazingly, within 48 hours, the FBI denied any terrorist activity was associated with the explosion.

Documents separately obtained by Judicial Watch from the State Fire Marshal Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, however, reveal that the explosion apparently was never thoroughly investigated.

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.” Furthermore, in his concluding report on the case Rahman wrote, “[T]he cause of this incident must be classified as ‘Undeterminable.’”

Before the building’s destruction, G. Schmitz, fire investigator for the Minneapolis Fire Department who was on the scene on the day of the explosion, reported, “The origin of the fire is undetermined.”

Suggestions by some that the fire may have been caused by “some kind of gas leak,” were quickly refuted by Minnesota’s Centerpoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden, who stated that they “can detect a gas leak even when you can’t detect it – highly sensitive equipment. They have checked there were no gas leaks reported beforeand there are no gas leaks in the area now.” Virden added, “We had no natural gas in the area.”

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch from the State Fire Marshal Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety substantiate doubts that a gas leak caused the explosion. Check out these details from a February 28, 2014, supplemental report filed by Deputy State Fire Marshal Rahman:

  • Interview of building occupant Abdi Ali Qobey, who was in apartment #5, on the same floor and across the hall from apartment #2, which blew up: “He was awake and lying in bed at the time of the incident… He did not smell (the odorant of) natural gas.”

  • Interview of building occupant Adani Ali, who was in apartment #1, which was directly involved in the fire: “He did not smell an odor of natural gas.”

  • “In review with Mark Bishop, a private fire investigator with Prairieland Fire and Forensics, who was retained by Centerpoint Energy, on the date of the incident gas company officials tested the odorant in the natural gas and found it to have an appropriate amount. Testing of the soil outside the structure in the area of the natural gas supply piping failed to reveal any fugitive gas in the soil.”

The Obama administration also conspicuously avoided any kind of serious investigation. How do we know?

Documents your JW obtained from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) through a March 12, 2014, FOIA request, reveal that ATF agents were explicitly told not to conduct an investigation of the explosion – after they had already begun preparations for their trip to Minneapolis. 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.” Why would the Minneapolis Fire Department make such an unusual request, particularly under such suspicious circumstances?

From here, the story gets even stranger. An ATF “Report of Investigation” dated January 13, 2014, says that 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:”

On January 2, 2014, ATF was in contact with the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office regarding the fire. Additional ATF personnel were also in contact with members of the Minneapolis Police Department. Plans were made to assist with a scene examination on January 3, once the bodies were recovered and the structural integrity was examined.
ATF personnel made plans to be at the scene of the fire on the morning of January 3 in an effort to determine the cause of the explosion and ensuing fire. ATF personnel were notified on the afternoon of January 2 that the City of Minneapolis was intending on tearing down the structure prior to a scene examination taking place. They (not identified) believed the fire was related to a natural gas leak in the building. The building was torn down and was then turned over to insurance representatives.
Even a novice sleuth would agree that it’s pretty hard to conduct any meaningful investigation when the possible crime scene and evidence it contains is destroyed.

So what’s going on here?

Why is there such reticence on the part of those who are charged with protecting public safety?

We are taking steps to find out. We want to see what, if anything, has been done to seriously investigate an explosion that remains highly suspicious. To this end, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records regarding the FBI’s response to the January 1, 2014, explosion of an apartment building.
The lawsuit, filed after the DOJ failed to respond our FOIA request to the FBI, asks for:

Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the investigation of the January 1, 2014 explosion and fire at the Cedar-Riverside apartment complex in Minneapolis, Minnesota, based on searches of the FBI’s Electronic Case File system, Central Records System and Electronic Surveillance records, as well as any cross-referenced files concerning the explosion and fire.

Our investigation has raised questions about this explosion and why state and federal officials were so quick to close this case, tear down the building and leave the community without answers about what really happened in Minneapolis. The local Somali community there has provided many recruits for ISIS, so there is urgency to resolving this case.

This building explosion and the building owner’s links to both Somalia and to terrorist financing should sound alarm bells.
The official explanation that the explosion was due to a natural gas leak doesn’t bear scrutiny.

The FBI’s and Justice Department’s stonewall, which is forcing us to go to federal court, suggests these agencies have something to hide.