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Somali community in Garden City 'shocked and scared' by terrorist plot

Published: Oct. 14, 2016 at 6:24 PM CDT
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A prayer service was held Friday night in the space targeted for a domestic terror attack.

For the first time since coming to the United States, many of the Somali immigrants living in a Garden City apartment complex say they were scared.

Many of the people who spoke to Eyewitness news did not know about the news of a planned attack on their home, and learned as they were returning home from work. But they do say it's a good community where they've always felt welcome.

Steven and Ann Burgess own the apartment complex targeted in the attack. They say they were shocked to learn about the plot against their tenants.

"These people have been with us for some 12 years and we love every one of them," Ann said. "They're peaceful, they're respectful, they're part of our family now and we only have good things to say about these people."

Dr. John Birky works closely with the Somalian community, a group of people he said learned first-hand should not be feared.

"I think it was surprising, shocking and saddening to me to hear that this response of American individuals to this community, yes they're very different, but we need to have a different response to immigrants," Birky said.

The Burgess's also say they immigrants should be welcomed and embraced.

"We have the greatest respect for the Somalian people," Steve said.

"They're wrong if they feel this way about these people, Ann added.

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The residents who live in a Garden City apartment complex say they are shocked and scared after hearing three men planned to bomb their living quarters and place of worship.

The complex is occupied by several refugees. Many of them are Somali and of Muslim faith.

On Friday, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein were all arrested for domestic terrorism. The U.S. Attorney of Kansas and FBI say the men planned to blow up the apartment complex and mosque on November 9, the day after Election Day.

Those who live in the complex say they the news makes them feel sad and scared - in a place where they've never been scared before.

"We don't have this problem in Finney County. It's a safe place, for the government, for the police department, we work together," said one man. "We cannot do anything, we cannot protect ourselves we're waiting for the government to protect us. We are under the government. We run from the war, we run from the killing our people."

The Garden City Mayor released a statement said he, too, was shocked when he learned about the bomb plot.

"Today should also serve as a reminder that vigilance should be a common practice by all citizens. ‘See something, say something’ is a cause we should champion each day even in a rural community like Garden City. I would encourage anyone that sees something suspicious to call 911,” said Mayor Chris Law.

“The GCPD was aware of the investigation, and has cooperated with the FBI since the onset," said Police Chief Micahel Utz. "We have been assured that all individuals involved are in custody, and that the safety of the community was ensured throughout the investigation."

Utz is expected to meet with the Somali community at 1 p.m. on Saturday.