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Minneapolis Somali community finds relief after arson suspect arrested

Monday May 1, 2023

Caption: Booking photo for Jackie Rahm Little (Photo Courtesy: US Attorney's Office)

Minneapolis (HOL) - Jackie Rahm Little, 36, was arrested on Saturday in Mankato, Minnesota, in connection with two arsons at Minneapolis mosques. Little is set to appear Monday in federal court, facing state and federal arson charges. Prosecutors have linked the mosque fires to vandalism incidents targeting U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's office and a Minneapolis police car. Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara said, "Based on our investigation, there is no other known, active threat to our Muslim neighbours."

O'Hara denounced the attacks in a statement, stating, "Houses of worship should be safe places. This level of blatant hatred will not be tolerated in our great city." He added that the fires were "an attempt to inflict terror onto our Muslim community."

Before the arson incidents, Little was seen on surveillance video entering Rep. Ilhan Omar's Minneapolis office on January 5, 2023, spray-painting "500" on her door and taking a picture of the graffiti. The same day, Little painted "500" on a patrol vehicle assigned to a Somali Minneapolis Police Department officer and an entryway to a market inside Somali Mall.

The first arson incident took place on April 23, when Little allegedly lit a cardboard box on fire in the bathroom of the Masjid Omar Islamic Center, located in the same building as the 24 Somali Mall. The second incident occurred the next day at Masjid Al Rahma mosque, where a fire was started on the third floor of a small building attached to the mosque. A volunteer security guard and three mosque employees helped evacuate the building, including 40 children who were in a child care center that rents space in the building.

The Somali community in Minneapolis expressed relief at the news of the arrest. "We hope that this will send a message that these kinds of attacks will not be tolerated," said Daud Mohamed, a community leader. "As Minnesotans, we all condemn attacks on places of worship."

CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein thanked law enforcement for their swift action. He said, "We welcome the arrest of the arson suspect and express gratitude to law enforcement for their swift action. This arrest brings some relief to our community, which has been on edge for the past week."

U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar also released a statement in response to the vandalism and arson, saying, "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 the wake of these incidents, police have enhanced patrols around houses of worship and are working closely with Minneapolis mosques to review security features.

Little has a history of domestic assault and mental illness, according to court records. In 2021, he was charged with arson after setting a gas can on fire atop a former neighbour's car in Minneapolis.

Little is expected to appear in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Cowan Wright on Monday, May 1. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine if convicted.


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