A fire at the Florida mosque where Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen had prayed broke out early Monday morning. According to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, the fire was set deliberately.
No one was inside when the fire started at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce. Mateen, who killed 49 people in his shooting at an Orlando nightclub in June, had attended the mosque.
According to Maj. David Thompson of St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, a video showed a person approaching the side of the mosque. There was a flash and the same person was seen fleeing.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze, but authorities were trying to make sure the building was safe before going inside for further assessments of the damage.
As of now it is not clear how the arsonist set the building on fire and what the motive was. At first glance many believed the fire to be in relation to 911, but authorities are not saying that.
The fire came at the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the holiday of the sacrifice. The Post’s Pamela Constable noted, the holiday “commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim, the figure known as Abraham in the Bible, to follow God’s command to sacrifice his son Ishmael, who was later saved by an angel and lived to be 137.” The holiday is not to be confused with Eid al-Fitr, a separate festival that marks the end of Ramadan.
Prior to the fire, The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce had an Eid prayer scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday. Those who showed up to worship were asked to go to another mosque.
Photos released by the Sheriff’s Office show the mosque’s structure to be intact.
Imam Syed Shafeeq Rahman told CNN that Mateen attended the Fort Pierce Islamic Center since 2003 and that he had usually come for Friday prayers before the June 12th shooting.
Authorities say they will be releasing the video of the suspect for the public’s help in identification.