Mosque in Jacksonville, Fla., firebombed

May 12, 2010 at 3:47 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 12 (UPI) -- A firebomb that exploded during evening prayer at a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque did little physical damage to the building, officials say.

Ashrad Shaikh, vice chairman of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, said the minor explosion and fire Monday night has shaken members of the mosque, the Jacksonville Times-Union reported. About 60 people were inside at the time, and the fire was put out with an extinguisher.

"I thought we were making so much progress -- that we had started getting beyond tolerance to friendship," Shaikh said Tuesday. "We have never, ever had anything that even came close to what we had last night."

Video from a security camera shows a man with a gas can outside the building, although it does not show him planting a bomb.

The bombing is being investigated by a task force including the FBI and other federal, state and local agencies. FBI spokesman Jeff Westcott said it is being treated as a hate crime.

Investigators are unsure if the bombing is related to an incident in April when a man entered the mosque during prayers and yelled, "Stop blaspheming," before members of the congregation chased him out.

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