Applying Occam’s Razor

Official malfeasance.

Dereliction of duty.

Obstruction of justice.

Misprision of multiple felonies.

Destruction of evidence.

Those are just a few of the juridical phrases that come to mind when contemplating the “investigation” of the New Year’s Day explosion and fire at 514 Cedar Avenue South in Minneapolis.

Before we begin any analysis and speculation, let’s stand back and consider what has been learned over the past few days about what happened on that fiery New Year’s dawn in “Little Mogadishu”.

The fire chief warned the public that the cause of the explosion and fire would not be know for weeks, if it is ever known at all. He said it would take a long time for investigators to analyze the evidence.

Yet the bulk of the evidence was backhoed into a heap of rubble within 72 hours after the explosion occurred.

The fire chief also told us that the evidence (where? who saw it?) points to a natural gas leak as the most likely cause of the explosion. He said that “witnesses” had reported a smell of natural gas before the building went up.

There are only two witnesses from the scene who have been quoted on the record about the smell of gas. According to the Strib, both of them state that there was no gas smell:

Neither [Hersi] Hassan nor [Abdi] Qobey smelled gas that morning, nor did they hear any fire alarms.

This contradicts the words of the fire chief, who repeatedly emphasized a natural gas leak as the likely cause — but not before the Department of Homeland Security arrived at the scene of the fire on Thursday morning.

According to WCCO-TV:

Fire Chief John Fruetel said Thursday that investigators are focusing on a gas explosion as a possible cause due to the nature of the debris field and because some witnesses spoke of an odor. However, he added the exact cause may never be determined.

Yet the gas utility, CenterPoint Energy, is still insisting that there was no natural gas leak:

Becca Virden, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy, said there were no natural gas leaks in the system and that the utility received no reports of a suspicious odor before the blast.

Which backs off slightly from her earlier statement:

“We had no natural gas in the area,” said Rebecca Virden, basing her information on CenterPoint’s own investigation and testing in the area.

The FBI has arrived on the scene, at pains to reassure the public that no terrorism was involved:

Greg Boosalis, supervisory special agent with the FBI in Minneapolis, said the investigation is continuing, but at this juncture there is no evidence of terrorist activity. Boosalis said the FBI has been assisting Minneapolis officials in a “support role.”

Two bodies have been found. One of them has been identified as Ahmed Farah Ali. Since the latest reports say that all persons in the building at the time of the explosion have now been accounted for, the other corpse is most likely that of Mrimri Farah, the roommate of Mr. Ali and the only remaining person who has been reported missing.

The mosque next to the demolished building is unusable, due to fire and water damage, and worshippers are holding prayers at a nearby community center. The surviving residents of the building are either in the hospital, or have been temporarily relocated by the local authorities or charitable agencies.

Those are the facts. Now it’s time for analysis and speculation.

The smelliest things in this case are as follows:

1. The sudden change in official statements after the Department of Homeland Security arrived on the scene

Since when has DHS shown up at the site of a natural gas leak and explosion? A number of suburban houses have been blown to rubble by such catastrophes over the past decade, and I don’t remember seeing any involvement of Homeland Security in any of those cases. But maybe DHS was there, and the fact just didn’t make it into the media reports.

After DHS arrived at Cedar Avenue, the fire chief suddenly began telling the public that a natural gas leak was the likely cause. He was able to discern this probability before anyone had even entered the building, while the crews were still spraying water into the smoking shell. He cited “witnesses” who smelled gas, but no witnesses were ever named. In fact, the only witnesses who went on record on the subject told the media they did not smell gas.

The fire chief also stated categorically that a bomb could be ruled out. How could any responsible official make such an assertion before the investigation had even begun? There was not a shred of evidence available for or against his assertion.

All anyone knew was that something blew up, and no one had entered the ruins to determine what it was. How did he know there was no bomb?

2. The immediate demolition of the damaged building, before any forensic evidence from inside the collapsed structure could be collected

The fire chief spoke about “the nature of the debris field” as evidence of a natural gas leak. But the debris field was never examined in detail. The inner surface of the walls, the undersides of the collapsed floor beams, the way the inside walls fell — none of these could be examined, because the building was knocked down as soon as the fire was out.

The temperature was below zero. Any bodies that were buried in the debris could have been safely left in place for a few days while expert investigators scrutinized the surviving structure. If it was unsafe for humans to enter, then robotic equipment could have been sent inside to take photos and move pieces of material.

The aerial photo at the top of this post shows that there must have been interesting indications to be gathered from what remained inside the building. In which direction did the inner walls collapse? What did the blast marks on the walls and the scorch patterns on the joists tell us?

And most importantly: which chemical traces and fragments of equipment were to be found in which rooms?

There is no longer any way to discover the answers to these questions with any forensic reliability, because the evidence has been destroyed.

3. The assertion that no terrorism was involved

Once again, how does anyone know that no terrorism was involved?

We have two dead people, and a group of survivors, most if not all of them Somalis.

At least one resident of the same building was a former militia member in Somalia who stabbed his roommate to death two and a half years ago. The area is known to be refuge for terrorists and a recruiting zone for young men who want to travel to Somalia and join al-Shabaab.

Have the backgrounds of everyone who lived or worked there, dead or alive, been examined in detail? Have their movements over the past decade been tracked? Their known associates listed and investigated?

How do we know for certain that no terrorism was involved?

One of the missing men — and probably the remaining unidentified body — is Mrimri Farah, who is said to be a sixty-year-old former soldier and Iraq veteran. How did an over-forty Somali immigrant come to be in the U.S. Army? Why was he sent to Iraq when he was over fifty? What was his assignment when he was there?

A number of people have speculated that he might have been an Arab, and not a Somali, and served as an interpreter. But not only is his name African rather than Arab, he is plainly African, as shown by this photo (the man on the left):

A recent Somali immigrant who arrived in the USA after the age of forty would be unlikely to be fluent in English. And his knowledge of the Arabic dialect commonly spoken in Iraq would have been scanty at best — unless, of course, he had served as some sort of agent in the region for many years.

The presence of any residents perceived to be “Arabs” in the building at 514 Cedar Avenue would have been unlikely in any case. Arabs generally consider Somalis to be vastly inferior to themselves, and an Arab would hardly consent to live in close quarters with them (unless those abid were his own personal slaves).

All the evidence indicates that the building served as a de facto Somali clan hall. The Strib refers to “Ahmed Muse, one of five owners of the Otanga grocery store”, and the Pioneer Press has this:

Farah Ahmed said his brother, his uncle and his friends own Otanga Grocery, the business in the ruined first floor.

“(The grocery store) was a center of communication. It was a center of gathering,” Ahmed said at the news conference.

Many of the people interviewed had relatives within the building or living in nearby residences. It may well be that everyone who lived or worked there was at least a distant relative of everyone else, by blood or marriage.

If the building at Cedar Avenue was in fact a clan stronghold, discovering whether any of the residents had connections to terrorism would be a difficult and time-consuming process. One would expect the entire group to close ranks and hide any associations with al-Shabaab or other questionable organizations.

So how, in the space of just a few hours, did a white, non-Muslim FBI agent determine that terrorism could be ruled out?

Did he already have a full dossier on every single Somali in the building and the surrounding neighborhood?


Now comes the real speculation.

Past experience tells us that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security don’t like to reveal any evidence that there are extensive Islamic terrorist networks or conspiracies within the borders of the United States. Whenever a successful FBI sting on a would-be Islamic terrorist is publicized, it is always a “lone wolf” who self-radicalized. This ensures that the bureau can stick to its mantra: No connection to terrorism!

Chances are the Department of Homeland Security already knew something specific and ominous about that particular neighborhood in Cedar-Riverside, and maybe even that particular building. Investigating what happened inside 514 Cedar Avenue South on that frigid New Year’s morning might have eventually revealed something that they would rather keep hidden.

So it was imperative to arrive quickly on the scene, hand the fire chief his script, turn all attention away from a terrorist enterprise, and focus on a tragic accident.

Best to knock the building down as quickly as possible to destroy any significant evidence. Then, after a suitable period of time, declare that the cause of the explosion could not be definitively determined, but was most likely the result of a natural gas leak. The gas company isn’t cooperating with the plan so far, but with the right incentives it may eventually be brought to heel.

The above is pure speculation, of course. But it has the advantage of satisfying Occam’s Razor: it is the simplest explanation I can think of that fits all the observed facts.

Which otherwise smell very, very fishy.

The incident at 514 Cedar Avenue on January 1 should be brought to the attention of the House Homeland Security Committee. I consider the Democrats on the committee to be a lost cause, but below is a list of the Republicans, with links to their official websites:

Readers (especially constituents of the listed representatives) are encouraged to take advantage of this list and communicate their feelings to one or more committee members.

When contacting a congressman, remember to be polite, calm, and temperate in your approach. Any frothing diatribes will be deleted before the aide tasked with reading them has gotten through the first paragraph.

Previous posts about the explosion and fire in Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis, on New Year’s Day 2014:

2014   Jan   1   A Fiery Dawn in Minneapolis
        2   Enter DHS — It Was a Gas Leak
        2   The Gas Company Says: “No Way!”
        3   Body #2 Found at Cedar Avenue
        3   A Funny Smell in Minneapolis

31 thoughts on “Applying Occam’s Razor

  1. To my mind the smell is of a terrorist cell that has been under surveillance and the DHS wants no information to see daylight, possibly because they want connected actors to go about their business as before.
    ..OR – there is another 9/11 being fostered by the DHS.

  2. I’m willing to bet a fiver it was a terror cell now. Although, one caveat, could they have been a false flag outfit?

    I thought insurance initially, but the Demolition is hasty and an insurance company would want to investigate for a few days if not weeks.

  3. With the exception of Montana, GoV has donors in all those states mentioned above in the Baron’s post.

    If you go to the link he left for your particular Congressman, it will open on your rep’s .gov page. Scroll to the bottom and get the contact info. I know the phone info is there. Forgot to look for the email contact, but it’s probably available. If not look at for contact info.

    They sure do pay attention to phone calls -and emails that don’t look like a robomail. For sure the Republicans would love to hear from you if you’re in their district. On the main page, it looks like their calendar is empty, so you’ll give them a great excuse for face time with media.

    Boy, Baron, I sure am impressed. That is very compact info…I’ll head over to Twitter.

  4. I have seen the aftermath of a couple of natural gas house explosians. Everything from the foundation on up was gone. One of them destroyed the homes on each side.

  5. Details from TwinCities web links:
    about Qobey:

    “Originally from Somalia and a resident of the building for seven or eight years, Qobey was one of 14 people hospitalized after the blast tore through the three-story brick building at 516 Cedar Ave. S., which also housed a first-floor grocery store. “


    “Two people had been reported as missing in the hours after the disaster. They were identified by friends and family as Ahmed Ali, 57, and Mrimri Farah, about 60.
    Firefighters discovered one body Thursday, and on Friday afternoon, authorities said it was that of Ali.”. . .”On Friday, the Pioneer Press reported that another person, Ali’s 9-year-old son, also was believed to be missing, according to his mother, Hawo Daqare, who is Ali’s ex-wife. However, it later became clear the boy was not missing.


    “Katra Ali Hethar of Waite Park in central Minnesota said she was married to Ali. In an interview before learning of his death, she said her husband moved to Minneapolis in hopes of finding work. Hethar said through an interpreter that she and her husband had no children together, but he had four children with other women.”


    “Some of those who escaped the fire have burn injuries. Others, like Qobey, have leg and back injuries from jumping to safety.

    That was the case for 29-year-old Hersi Hassan, who lived on the second floor with his two sisters. In an interview Friday at HCMC, Hassan said he awoke Wednesday to commotion and smelled smoke.
    He opened the door and found the hallway impassable, so he and his sisters went to the window and decided to jump. They were scared, he said.
    He broke a leg and hurt his back. His sisters each broke both legs.”


    “About four hours after the second body was recovered from the fire scene Friday, a crew finished tearing down the 127-year-old building; the fire had consumed the ceiling and floors, and inspectors deemed the brick walls too unstable to remain.
    As that work went on in the biting cold, so did the investigation into what caused the explosion. The work was being done by the Minneapolis Arson Squad — a special unit of firefighters and police officers — and the state fire marshal’s office.
    A hard job is even more so when the temperature is below freezing and the wind chill is in the low single digits, said Mike Colestock, a former firefighter who is now associate dean of public and emergency service careers at Hennepin Technical College.
    “It’s slippery, and there’s a layer of ice covering things that they want to look at,” he said. “It makes evidence recovery difficult.”
    Investigating the cause of a fire “is a very slow, very deliberate process,” he said.
    “You see inspectors start at one end of the building and slowly and methodically work their way to the other end, and sometimes they’ll do that three or four times,” Colestock said. “It would absolutely be more difficult when it is this cold out.”


    “A spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy said there were no natural gas leaks in the lines that connected the building to the gas distribution lines, and the utility didn’t get any reports of gas smells.
    Fruetel has said there is no evidence of foul play yet, and at this point in the investigation, it appeared the source of ignition was on the second or third floor.”

    It appears family members aren’t in agreement about their deceased relatives domicile:

    “Family members identified the two people not accounted for as Mrimri Farah, said to be about 60 years old, and Ahmad Ali, 57, who shared an apartment. . . .She said Ali lived in Apartment No. 6 on the SECOND floor. – viaStarTribune


    “Family members believe the two were living together on the THIRD floor.” -via

    ***Bet Ali’s not-so-lost nine year old son could clarify which floor his dad and roommate resided on.

  6. Third person dies from Minneapolis building fire

    “A third person has died from an explosion that gutted a building in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood on New Year’s Day.

    Abdiqani Adan, 29, died from “complications of injuries sustained in a building fire,” the Hennepin County medical examiner said Saturday afternoon. Adan died Friday afternoon at the Hennepin County Medical Center, the medical examiner said. He was not a resident of 516 Cedar Ave., the three-story brick building with a first-floor grocery store that burst into flames early Wednesday morning.

  7. The magic and beauty of self deception at work.
    Another of the great gifts of ISLAM!

  8. Pingback: Minneapolis building next to mosque explodes – neighborhood “where Islamic terrorists congregate” (updated) | Creeping Sharia

  9. Lee Stranahan has some significant audio clips and details posted on this topic, including some clarification on the reason the police officer was on site at the time of the explosion/fire. . . a reported robbery. Abdiqani Adan, 29, was the third individual to die in the fire. Adan was not a resident at that address.

    • In case it’s related to reason law officer was present at time/location of explosion . . .Cut/Paste of comment placed @ Citypages blog

      Denise Casamento Musser<i< from Facebook 1 day ago

      “Wonder if there were propane tanks inside? There were more than a dozen stolen from the hardware store on Franklin a couple of weeks ago…”

      Just in case someone else noticed it, I recall reading about the demolition being halted temporarily upon discovery of first body, to which an imam was summoned. Can’t find link – possibly scrubbed since I read it.

      • Found a/the quote referencing imam summoned to site when body located:

        Second body found in Minneapolis apartment fire rubble via

        “A second body reportedly has been found in the wreckage of a Minneapolis apartment building that exploded and burned on New Year’s Day.

        Basim Sabri, a property owner who has served as a liaison between authorities and the mosque adjoining the burned building, said he was told by the state fire marshal that a second body had been found. Sabri was transporting the mosque’s imam to the site.

        The discovery came Friday morning as crews resumed work removing debris from the site.

        • A little insight into the background of the “property owner” Basim Sabri via citipages comments at this link provide additional insight . ..particularly revealing: Basim Sabri is a convicted felon who has done time.

          “He has been a repeat offender of disregarding not just our ordinances, but the building code,” said Charles Elliot, the city’s director of inspections and regulatory compliance.”

          ***there’s much more . . .simply google this cretin’s identity to satisfy any remaining curiosity.

          This is who officials chose to act as liason between them and a community suspected of nefarious links to global jihad? Is there any question why official statements printed in media remain suspect?

  10. Pingback: News links for Jan 4 2013 – 2 | Vlad Tepes

  11. Almost overlooked this curious quote from mom of 9 year old initially thought to be missing:

    “Hawo Daqare told Fox 9 News she believes her former husband, Ali, will be found in the wreckage.
    “I feel bad. I’m not feeling very good,” she said. “I have a 9-year-old son. I don’t need to damage my son. He’s very young. I don’t need to lose him.”

    Read more: Gas leak could be to blame for Cedar Ave. explosion; body found – KMSP-TV

    Read more: Gas leak could be to blame for Cedar Ave. explosion; body found – KMSP-TV feel bad. I’m not feeling very good,” she said. “I have a 9-year-old son. I don’t need to damage my son. He’s very young. I don’t need to lose him.”

    Read more: Gas leak could be to blame for Cedar Ave. explosion; body found – KMSP-TV

  12. Occam would say that the simple explanation to a fire in a house is, that there is a fire, and that it was started by the fire, that was in the house from the start in this case probably some kind of ill-maintenanced old gas-stove or electric heater going at MAX since it was the coldest night in twenty years.

    The fast development and magnitude of the fire tells Occam that it had been building up for a long time, before it was detected by the people living there.

    Against the theory of a terrorist bomb going off at the wrong time speaks the absence of kinetic damage to the house, and that there was a fire that developed very fast. Terrorist bombs are generally made to harm people with a chock-wave and shrapnel and not to start fires.

    • Ah, but to satisfy Occam, your theory would also need to explain:

      1. why the authorities suddenly pushed the “natural gas leak” meme in the absence of any evidence, and in the face of contrary assertions by the gas company;

      2. why they cited “witnesses” to a smell, when no such witnesses could be located;

      3. why the building was demolished so quickly, destroying the evidence; and

      4. why the authorities ruled out a bomb before any investigation had been conducted.

      Your theory explains the explosion and fire itself, but it does NOT explain the subsequent behavior of the city authorities.

      If it hadn’t been for those later suspicious official actions, I wouldn’t even be paying attention to this case.

  13. It may be extreme political correctness or a coverup of an ongoing investigation.

  14. Pingback: Best analysis yet of Somali apartment explosion at Gates of Vienna « Refugee Resettlement Watch

  15. Pingback: More on Minneapolis explosion in Somali apartment building « Refugee Resettlement Watch

  16. That building was burning fast. But, I think the gas company spokesperson misspoke when she said there was no Natural Gas in the area. Natural Gas heats nearly all of our homes and businesses in the Minneapolis area. I think maybe she meant that there were no NG leaks.

    I wouldn’t discount the possibility of a bomb factory. However, I would look for something stupid first. NG piping routed around the meter, gasoline stored in apartments, propane grills or ovens being used for heat.

    • Would it be possible that the house had gas lines installed long ago that weren’t in use? NG has definitely become the most economical way to heat, esp. in a place like Minnesota, but does that mean an old house would necessarily be currently using it?

      If it was in use, I agree with you: always investigate the “stupidity & cupidity factor” – in this case, possible routing around the meter (& stealing propane canisters). I used to see that work-around with electric meters in my social work days. Often done dangerously.

      The stolen canisters of propane a few weeks previously could be a factor, but we’d have to know the methods that could be employed to weaponize them. OTOH, given that pressure cookers can be used to blow stuff up, it would seem that almost anything can be a weapon if one is determined to kill people.

      Hmm…I just reordered a replacement for the rubber gasket in my pressure cooker. I wonder if Amazon has to report such sales now??

      [On a personal note, a few years ago & thanks to our donors, we were able to have a gas range (w/ a propane tank outside) installed. Not only is it better for cooking, but when our electricity goes out – which it does all too often in these rural and somewhat hilly parts so prone to icing up – we can use it to warm the kitchen, using a small propane portable heater for the bathroom pipes. Yes, we’re careful about carbon monoxide.]

      To sum up, stupidity, cupidity and cultural factors, combined with the Big Foot of DHS trampling on the evidence, continue to make this smell…and that’s not the fragrance of leaking gas, either.

  17. Why cover it up? I agree, it all sounds fishy. But what is the point? Is DHS, FBI involvement coming from Obama admin?

  18. Pingback: What the Police and the Gas Company Really Said | Gates of Vienna

  19. Pingback: Minneapolis: FBI, ATF Now Investigating Fatal Building Explosion | Creeping Sharia

  20. Immediate demolition of the site? Can you spell “Waco”? I’m sure you can if you try…

  21. Pingback: Fiat Lux — 514-510 Cedar Avenue South, Part IIA | Gates of Vienna


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