Thursday, 21 September 2017

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WATCH: Surveillance video released in Tampa mosque fire

By Angie Angers, For Bay News 9, On 16 May 2017, Read Original

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Three months after a fire damaged a Thonotosassa mosque, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office investigators released surveillance video showing the fire was set on purpose.

  • Fire set Feb. 24, 2017
  • Subject seen pouring trail of ignitable liquid on sidewalk, lighting the trail
  • Detectives hope someone will come forward to ID subject

The video shows a man entering the property of the Islamic Society of New Tampa carrying a large container and a rope. After several attempts at either lighting the rope using a liquid accelerant and lighting the container itself, the subject successfully lights the container with the accelerant, which caused damage to the mosque.

The subject can be seen fleeing the scene once the fire is set.

Community members who saw the video said it was hard to watch. They hope now that it's been released it will help deputies track down the arsonist, which would help them feel safe while inside again.

“It’s very chilling when you see the arson attempt in action," said community member Bilan Selah, "and it just brings old memories and old concerns alive again.”

 

The damage to the side of the mosque has since been repaired -- there's little sign of the arson attempt left. But the impact of the act was felt throughout the community.

“We’ve gotten so much support from our Jewish brothers and sisters, from our Christian brothers and sisters," said Aida Mackic, of the Council on American Islamic Relations. "The church next door offered their space for our prayers when we weren’t able to use the mosque here.”

A recent civil rights report from CAIR shows an over 500 percent surge of anti-Muslim hate crimes across the United States over the past few years. With Ramadan just two weeks away, community members here hope that investigators can now track down the suspect quickly.

“During Ramadan we usually have a lot of people coming at night for the evening prayer, and some nights we get over 500 people," said Selah. "So any simple, small, incident would create a lot of chaos.”

 

Anyone with information about the crime or the man seen in the video is asked to contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Both CAIR and the sheriff's office are offering rewards for information that leads to an arrest.