Corvallis: Anger over a Somali-born teen`s failed plan to blow up a van full of explosives during Portland`s Christmas tree lighting ceremony apparently erupted in arson on Sunday when a fire damaged an Islamic centre once frequented by the suspect, authorities said.
Police don`t know who started the blaze or exactly why, but they believe the mosque was targeted because terror suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, occasionally worshipped there.
The fire at the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Centre was reported at 2:15 am, and "quite a bit of evidence" at the scene led authorities believe it was set intentionally, said Carla Pusateri, a fire prevention officer for the Corvallis Fire Department. No one was injured in the blaze, which did not damage any worship areas and was contained to one room, said Yosof Wanly, imam at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Centre.
"We know how it is, we know some people due to ignorance are going to perceive of these things and hold most Muslims accountable," Wanly said, responding to the blaze. "We do what we can, but it`s a tough situation."
Mohamud was being held on charges of plotting to carry out a terror attack in Portland. On Friday, he parked what he thought was a bomb-laden van near the ceremony and then went to a nearby train station, where he dialled a cell phone that he believed would detonate the vehicle, federal authorities said. Instead, federal authorities moved in and arrested him. No one was hurt.
The case is the latest in a string of alleged terrorist plots by US citizens or residents, including one at Times Square in which a Pakistan-born man pleaded guilty earlier this year to trying to set off a car bomb at a busy
Authorities have not explained how Mohamud, an OSU student until he dropped out on October 6, became so radicalised. Mohamud graduated from high school in Beaverton, although few details of his time there were available on Saturday.
Wanly described him as a normal student who went to athletic events, drank the occasional beer and was into rap music and culture.
Officials said Mohamud had no formal ties to foreign terror groups, although he had reached out to suspected terrorists in Pakistan.