Three men in the Midwestern state of Kansas were charged Friday in federal court with conspiring to bomb Somali immigrants in an apartment complex.

Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, both 49, and both of Liberal, Kansas, and Patrick Eugene Stein, 47, of Wright, Kansas, were arrested and brought to federal court to face a charge of conspiring to use explosives as a weapon of mass destruction, the US Justice Department said.

The defendants could face a life sentence if convicted. The flats they were targeting are in Garden City, Kansas.

Tom Beall, acting US Attorney for Kansas, said the case was based on an eight-month FBI probe exposing "a hidden culture of hatred and violence" using in part a "confidential source" inside meetings of a right-wing militia group in which the suspects were members.

The defendants sought to attack Muslims in south-western Kansas.

"According to the complaint, these three defendants conspired to conduct a bombing attack against an apartment complex occupied by men, women and children in the Garden City, Kansas, community," said John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security.

"Protecting our nation from such attacks, whether they are rooted in domestic or international terrorism, is our highest priority."

Court documents say that the defendants studied potential targets and stockpiled firearms, ammunition and explosive components. They had plans to issue a manifesto along with the planned bombing.

On Wednesday, Stein said he would provide ammonium nitrate for the bomb and took an FBI undercover agent to see the targeted apartment complex, prosecutors allege.

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