FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
MAN CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH ATTACK ON EL PASO MOSQUE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced the indictment of an El Paso man for allegedly attempting an arson attack on the Islamic Center of El Paso, Texas. The Islamic Center is the only mosque in the El Paso area.
In the indictment, the government alleges that on September 17, 2004 Antonio Nunez-Flores fashioned two incendiary devices, commonly called ‘Molotov cocktails’, and threw one at the Islamic Center. Children playing in the area ran away as the gasoline filled bottle shattered on the ground. The device scorched the ground but failed to explode. According to the government, Nunez-Flores lit the second device and placed it near a natural gas meter, but it was discovered and extinguished before it could explode.
The charges against Nunez-Flores carry a maximum penalty of 100 years in prison and a $1,250,000 fine. An indictment is merely an allegation of guilt and the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty.
Today’s indictment marks the second time this year that a person has been charged with threatening or using violence against the Islamic Center. On September 30, 2004, another El Paso man pleaded guilty to an April 18, 2004 incident. On that day, Jared Bjarnason sent an e-mail message to the Islamic Center threatening violence against the Islamic Center and its members. Specifically, the message threatened to burn the Islamic Center’s mosque to the ground if hostages held in Iraq were not freed within three days.
The Civil Rights Division, FBI, and United States Attorneys’ Offices have investigated nearly 600 incidents of alleged bias-motivated crimes against individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin since September 11, 2001. Federal charges have been brought in 20 cases against 25 defendants. To date 18 defendants have been convicted, a conviction rate of 100%.