MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — FBI officials said Monday they foiled a terrorist attack being planned in a small western Minnesota town, but they offered no details about the exact targets of the attack — or the motive of the man accused of having a cache of explosives and weapons in a mobile home.
The FBI said "the lives of several local residents were potentially saved" with the arrest of Buford Rogers, 24, who made his first appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Rogers, of Montevideo, was arrested Friday after authorities searched a mobile home he's associated with and found Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms, according to a court affidavit.
"The FBI believed there was a terror attack in its planning stages, and we believe there would have been a localized terror attack, and that's why law enforcement moved quickly to execute the search warrant on Friday to arrest Mr. Rogers," FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said Monday.
He said the investigation is ongoing, and agents are looking at the case as one of domestic terrorism.
Loven said the investigation prohibits him from getting into details about Rogers' target, or his possible political or religious views, but he said the FBI is confident in calling this a "terror" situation. He also said the alleged target was believed to be in Montevideo, a city of about 5,000 people about 130 miles west of Minneapolis.
"We had information which indicated that Mr. Rogers was involved in a plot to conduct terror activities in and around the Montevideo area," he said. He declined to say whether Rogers was believed to be acting alone or as part of a group, or if other arrests were expected.
Montevideo Police Chief Adam Christopher said a homemade sign in front of the mobile home that bore the letters "BSM" refers to a local anti-government militia group called the Black Snake Militia, which the Rogers family started.
"That is not a large scale, nationwide group, as far as I know," Christopher said. "I think it's kind of them, and their family, and a few of their friends."
Mark Pitcavage, who researches militias for the Anti-Defamation League, said the Black Snake Militia is part of a movement that has slowly grown from about 50 active groups around the U.S. a few years ago to more than 260 small groups today.
Pitcavage said there are "a whole lot of little militia cells out there with 6-8 people in there, which is what this seems to be. ... It's teeny tiny, it's probably a group of like-minded friends who believe some of the same things."
Rogers' father, Jeff Rogers, told KMSP-TV his son doesn't own any guns, and the guns in the home belonged to him. He said his son is not a terrorist.
"He was not out to bomb nobody and I have no clue where the hell that came from," Jeff Rogers said. "I have no idea of who the hell he'd even be targeting. He's not that kind of a person. I can guarantee you that."