Blaze at US mosque attended by Orlando attacker, arson suspected
Investigators in Florida suspect arson behind a fire that broke out in a mosque attended by Omar Mateen, the gunman in the Orlando gay nightclub shooting, which claimed the lives of 49 persons and injured dozens more.
Officials received a call around 12.31 am (local time) on Monday, reporting a fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Florida, a police official said. Firefighters responded and extinguished the fire, ABC news reported.
The blaze broke out hours after the passing of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, on the three-month anniversary of the June 12 Orlando massacre at the Pulse gay0 nightclub, and also on the same day as the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
Investigators said evidence points to an intentional fire, and the police was investigating the incident as arson, officials said at a press conference. A surveillance video showed an individual walking up to the east side of the building prior to a flash and a fire breaking out, an official said.
“Right now I don’t want to speculate on a motive,” the official said, adding “we all know the implications of the date and the time of year, this is the 9/11 anniversary. Is that related? I would not want to speculate but it is in the back of our minds. This is a horrible tragedy, not only for the Islamic Center, but also for our community,” the official noted.
The mosque received multiple threats in the weeks following the Orlando massacre after it was revealed that Mateen attended the Fort Pierce mosque as a child and continued to visit the Islamic house of worship several days a week until the June 12 attack.