Minneapolis • FBI officials said Monday that they foiled a terrorism attack that was 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 agents are looking at the case as one of domestic terrorism.
Loven said the pending 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.
"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.
Rogers appeared in court Monday wearing a construction company T-shirt, baggy pants, and work boots. He answered "yes sir" and "no sir" to questions from U.S. Magistrate Tony Leung, who ordered him held pending a detention hearing Wednesday, citing "serious concerns" raised in the charges.
Rogers was appointed a federal defender, but an attorney was not immediately assigned. Defendants do not typically enter pleas during initial appearances and he made no statement about the case to the court. Working phone numbers for his parents were unavailable Monday.
Loven, with the FBI, declined to elaborate about the specific location of the alleged target, other than to say it was believed to be in Montevideo, a city of about 5,000 people about 130 miles west of Minneapolis. He also declined to say whether Rogers was believed to be acting alone or as part of a group, or if other arrests were expected.
He said the investigation is ongoing.
In a news release Monday, the FBI said the alleged terror plot was discovered through analysis of intelligence gathered by local, state and federal authorities.
"Cooperation between the FBI and its federal, state, and local partners enabled law enforcement to prevent a potential tragedy in Montevideo," Christopher Warrener, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Minneapolis, said in the statement.
According to a federal affidavit obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, FBI agents from the domestic terrorism squad searched the property at the mobile home park in Montevideo and discovered the Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms. The affidavit said Buford was there at the time of the search, and one firearm recovered from Buford’s residence was a Romanian AKM assault rifle.
In an interview with authorities, Rogers admitted firing the weapon on two separate occasions at a gun range in Granite Falls, the affidavit said. Rogers has a past conviction for felony burglary and is not allowed to have a firearm.
That 2011 felony burglary conviction stems from an incident in Lac qui Parle County. He also has a 2009 misdemeanor conviction for dangerous handling of a weapon in Hennepin County, as well as other criminal violations, according to online court records.
Dustin Rathbun, who lives next door to Rogers’ home, said he saw Friday’s raid and arrest. He said he didn’t know the family well because he didn’t see them outside much.
Rathbun said he and other neighbors noticed a few months ago that the Rogers family was flying an upside-down flag from the side of their mobile home. He said the owners of the park asked them to take it down.
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Associated Press writer Doug Glass contributed to this report.
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