Orlando nightclub shooting: Fire at gunman’s mosque
Police are investigating a fire at the mosque that was attended by the Orlando nightclub gunman who killed 49 people.
Fire officials said that surveillance cameras show a suspect approaching the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce moments before the blaze on Monday 12th September.
The fire may have been timed to coincide with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha and the anniversary of New York’s terrorist attack - 9/11.
Omar Mateen committed the worst mass shooting in modern American history in June when he opened fire in Pulse nightclub.
He was shot down and killed by police after taking hostages and declaring his allegiance to the Daesh group.
The mosque blaze was so severe that it burned a huge hole - 10ft by 10ft - in the roof of the mosque's main room.
Law enforcement officers received reports of flames rising from the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, in Orlando, just after midnight.
A spokesman for the sheriff's office, Major David Thompson, told reporters that no one was hurt.
He said: “This is a horrible tragedy. Not only for the Islamic Center, but for our community.”
He continued: “Surveillance footage showed a white or possibly Hispanic man riding up on a motorcycle.
“The suspect got off the bike and approached the mosque carrying a bottle of liquid and papers, moments before the blaze erupted.
"Immediately after the individual approached, a flash occurred and the individual fled the area.”
Major David Thompson added that investigators have not yet identified the man, who shook his hand while leaving the area of the flames, indicating that he might have been burned himself.
Wilfredo Ruiz, spokesman for the center and communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations in Florida, said they must wait until law enforcement officials determine it no longer is a crime scene to inspect the damage.
Mr Ruiz said the motive for the fire is ‘obviously hate’.
He added: “The reasons that fuel that hate and keep fueling that hate could be plenty of reasons.”