Hillsborough Co. mosque fire ruled arson, CAIR offering reward for info leading to arrest

Posted at 5:34 AM, Feb 24, 2017

LIVE STREAM | Leaders to discuss fire and investigation at 10 a.m.

Officials with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue have ruled the overnight fire at the Islamic Society of New Tampa an arson. 

The Islamic Society of New Tampa is located on Morris Bridge Road in Thonotosassa. 

The call came in around 2:09 a.m.

ABC Action News spoke to elders at the mosque who say it looks like someone attempted to break-in to the building. There are a few holes in the bottom of the door. There were rumors that there were gunshots through the door, but those rumors have been verified as false. 

"The fact that we stand together when our houses of worship are attacked is really what is important," said Thania Diaz Clevenger, with CAIR Florida. 

The people at the mosque say "sprinklers and God" put out the fire before it could cause significant damage inside. 

Surveillance cameras are installed throughout the property, but leaders at the mosque could not comment if the cameras were properly working. 

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn condemned the crime Friday during a press conference stating the city stands with the Muslim community. 

"Not on my watch, not in my city, we will not tolerate this," said Buckhorn. "This is no different than the wave of anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish community centers and synagogues and bomb threats that have been called in across the country, including Tampa. 

While investigators confirmed the fire was arson, it's still not clear if the act was a hate crime. 

"Everybody has a right to live and practice their religion, this is what America stands for, this is what makes America great," said Mazen Bondogji, who worships at the New Tampa Mosque. 

CAIR Florida has offered a reward for information leading to an arrest. 

They released a statement reacting to the news.

"We congratulate the Hillsborough County first responders for their prompt response to this tragic situation. It is worrisome that our community have fallen victim of what appears to be another hate crime. This time another Florida mosque has been targeted in a crime that could have easily taken the life of any worshiper. Our prayers are with the New Tampa Mosque community; and we are grateful that nobody was physically hurt. CAIR-Florida urgently call all local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to be on top of the investigation of what appears to be a heinous act of terror against the Muslim community." - Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, CAIR-Florida Communications Director. 



The public is asked to call 1-877-662-7766 with any information.

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