Investigators are searching for a suspect in an arson case involving the torching of a mosque once attended by Pulse nightclub gunman Omar Mateen.
The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce in Fort Pierce, Florida, was set on fire in the early hours of Sept. 12.
“A fire at any place of worship is always a tragedy,” said David Thompson of the sheriff’s office. “Evidence has revealed that this fire was set intentionally.”
Surveillance footage at the mosque showed a suspect approach the east side of the building before a flash occurred, followed by the individual fleeing the scene, said Thompson. Investigators are set to release the video.
Authorities have not ruled out a possible link to the 15-year anniversary of Sept. 11.
“I don’t want to speculate on a motive. We all know the implications of the date and time of year that this is—the 9/11 anniversary,” Thompson said. “Is that related? I do not want to speculate but certainly that is in the back of our minds.”
Sept. 11 also marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha—one of two major Eid holidays observed by Muslims. Eid al-Adha in Arabic means “festival of the sacrifice” and ends on Thursday, Sept. 15.
Mateen had attended the Fort Pierce Islamic Center since 2003, Imam Syed Shafeeq Rahman told CNN. Rahman said the mosque relayed peaceful messages and not ones of hate.
“So far as we here in Fort Pierce are concerned, we are always very conscious—consciously speaking about peace, about love, about unity,” Rahman told CNN. “We came to this country; this country gave us everything.”
Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12 in a scene of carnage that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. Mateen was killed by police gunfire.
Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, who was the first American suicide bomber in Syria, also attended the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce.