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Arson Suspected as Fire Damages Mosque Where Orlando Shooter Worshiped

  • VOA News

In this photo provided by the St. Lucie Sheriff's Office, firefighters work at the scene of a fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce in Fort Pierce, Florida, Sept. 12, 2016.

In this photo provided by the St. Lucie Sheriff's Office, firefighters work at the scene of a fire at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce in Fort Pierce, Florida, Sept. 12, 2016.

A blaze that investigators believe was deliberately set caused significant damage Monday to a mosque in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida where Orlando massacre shooter Omar Mateen prayed and worshiped.

Firefighters found flames shooting through the roof of the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce after they received an emergency call just after midnight. No one was in the mosque at the time and no one was injured, but the fire gutted much of the building.

"Evidence has revealed that this fire was set intentionally," one law enforcement official said.

FILE - Suspected Orlando shooter Omar Mateen. (Orlando Police Department)

FILE - Suspected Orlando shooter Omar Mateen. (Orlando Police Department)

"A fire at any place of worship is alarming, regardless of the circumstances," authorities said in a statement. "Video captured at the Fort Pierce Islamic center shows an individual approached the east side of the building just moments before a flash is seen and the fire starts."

The officials said they soon plan to release the video in hopes that someone might recognize the individual seen near the mosque.

Mateen, who lived in Fort Pierce, killed 49 people at a gay night club in Orlando in June in an hours-long assault before police raided it and killed him in a shootout. He was known to worship at the Fort Pierce mosque.

The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce said the fire "is a terrible tragedy, not only for the Islamic Center, but for our community."

Monday is the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the four-day Islamic festival of sacrifice, but because of the fire, religious leaders advised the faithful to attend prayers at other mosques.

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