Interfaith vigil held after Tampa mosque arson

- An overnight fire at a Tampa mosque has been ruled arson, leaving worshippers at the Islamic Society of New Tampa with no place to hold services while investigators search for clues.

More than a hundred people attended an interfaith gathering Friday night at the mosque. It was called after the arson to show solidarity with the members impacted by the fire.

A rabbi, pastor and other community leaders spoke about religious tolerance and how their communities also felt hurt by the arson.

"It can be them this week. It can be a Christian church two weeks from now. It could the synagogues. It could be the cemeteries in St. Louis like they were saying and that's unacceptable," said Barb Towne, who attended the gathering.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue responded the call at the Daarus Salaam Mosque, commonly referred as the New Tampa Mosque, at 2:09 a.m. Friday.

At a press conference this morning, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn confirmed that investigators believe the blaze was intentionally set.

The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations - Florida in Tampa, Hassan Shibly, is calling the fire an act of terrorism. Shibly also called upon President Trump to acknowledge the incident. 

A representative for CAIR-Florida issued the following statement: "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."

Sprinklers at the mosque turned on and caught the fire before it could spread. But despite minimal damage from the flames, it seems water damage to the building is extensive. 

Several holes could be seen in the building's shatterproof glass, but investigators say they are not from bullets.

"There were rumors spread from the scene that there were gunshots through an exterior door at the Mosque. Through our investigation on scene those rumors have been verified to be false," a Hillsborough County Fire Rescue statement explained.

Islamic Society members had to relocate their prayer service Friday morning due to the damage. But, they say the afternoon prayer service will have to be canceled because there will be too many people to accommodate-- now that the facility they built to accommodate them has been substantially damaged.  

Mosque-goers say they are surprised by the fire, and that they've always had a good relationship with the surrounding community.

CAIR-Florida says they are offering a $5,000 reward to the first person who provides information leading to a conviction in the fire at New Tampa Mosque. 

Stay with FOX 13 for updates on this developing story.

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