Islamic community plans to rebuild mosque damaged in blaze

Islamic Center of Fort Pierce

"Immediately after the individual approached the flash occurred and the individual fled the area", Major David Thompson of the St Lucie County Sheriff's Office, told press at the scene, adding that the incident is being investigated as an arson case.

"Today was supposed to be a day of this community exchanging gifts with their kids, visiting their family members, having dinners, having lunches", Wilfredo Ruiz, a spokesman for the mosque, said at a Monday afternoon news conference in Fort Pierce, Florida.

“First there were threating voicemails, ” he said.

The fire occured on the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attack and the beginning of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.

The members of the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce had broken their fasts and, less than an hour earlier, left their mosque near Florida's eastern shoreline.

Thompson went on to call the fire a frightful tragedy for the Islamic Center and said his office intends to release footage of the suspected arsonist as soon as it becomes available.

Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 when he opened fire in the Pulse gay club in June, telling police that he was acting on behalf of the so-called Islamic State.

In June, the Islamic Center's imam, Syed Shafeeq Rahman, distanced himself and the mosque from Mateen and, more generally, from extremist ideology.

The attack occurred on one of the holiest Muslim holidays. The same mosque was attended by Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, an American suicide bomber that operated in Syria. "I feel we will be able to pull together from this, and as time goes by we will be able to rebuild".

The sheriff's office shared a video online that showed a "lone individual either of white or Hispanic ancestry" disembark from a "Harley Davidson-style motorcycle" and enter the mosque complex made up of several buildings, some of them wooden, just before midnight.

Michael Parsons, 22, was standing outside his parents home, directly across the street from the mosque.

Parsons, a gutter installer with “trust no one” tattooed on his chest, said his mothers cancer doctor attends the mosque.

"America was founded so people can believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do", he said. CAIR said the victim was a Muslim and the attacker hurled slurs. A suspect was arrested.

On Monday morning, a pickup truck with a "Don't Tread on Me" bumper sticker rolled past the mosque. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Thompson also addressed the conspicuous time of year for such an act.

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