FBI: 'We will find the person responsible for this attack'

Inside the burned-out Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center »Play Video
Inside the burned-out Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center, courtesy of KATU Photojournalist Gino Corridori.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Nov. 30, we received word that investigators were sending the entire broken window of the burned Corvallis Islamic Center to the FBI's crime lab in in Quantico, Va. A police spokesperson says the window to the center's office was not broken enough for someone to enter, and investigators believe someone broke it to toss in a container of flammable liquid. More from the Associated Press.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Corvallis Fire Department tells us that a fire was set shortly after midnight at the Corvallis mosque where Portland's alleged "attempted Christmas-tree bomber" attended.

After completing a cause-and-origin investigation, fire prevention officer Carla Pusateri tells us "it appears the fire was intentionally set." 

Pusateri said the Corvallis Fire Department responded to a fire at the Salman AlFarisi Islamic Center in the 600 block of NW Kings Boulevard in Corvallis at 2:16 a.m. Sunday. The fire was discovered by a police sergeant patrolling in the area, and was quickly knocked down by arriving firefighters. 

She said the flames were limited to one room of the mosque. The FBI reports it was the office of the Islamic Center that suffered both fire and smoke damage. There also was "light smoke damage in the adjacent rooms," Corvallis Fire reports.

An FBI spokesperson says someone apparently broke through a window at the Islamic Center and then set a fire inside the mosque. Investigators believe the arsonist was working alone.

Two fire engines, one ladder truck and a command vehicle responded to the fire, which was extinguished within 10 minutes. There were no injuries.

The criminal investigation, Pusateri said as of 8:30 a.m. Sunday, is now in the hands of the Corvallis Police Department.

A few hours later, the FBI stepped forward to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to "identification, arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible" for that fire.

"FBI Agents are investigating an apparent attack on the Salman AlFarisi Islamic Center in Corvallis," reports a prepared statement sent by Portland FBI representative Beth Anne Steele.

The FBI is working with the Corvallis Police Department in investigating this case.       

"We have made it quite clear that the FBI will not tolerate any kind of retribution or attack on the Muslim community," said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, in a prepared statement. "We are working very closely with the leadership at the mosque. We will find the person responsible for this attack and bring the full force of the federal justice system to bear. In the meantime, the FBI remains absolutely committed to protecting each and every American's right to live, work and worship in a free and safe society."

Authorities are asking anyone with information regarding the fire to contact the Corvallis Police Department at (541) 766-6924 or the Corvallis Fire Department at (541) 766-6470.

FBI agents say they don't have any suspects yet. The FBI has been joined by the U.S. Attorney's Office to take over the arson investigation, saying this attack could involve civil-rights violations.

While no threats were left by whomever set the fire, the FBI thinks the mosque was hit because of the ties it had to Mohamed Mohamud, the 19-year-old part-time OSU student who was arrested Friday for plotting to set of a huge bomb during the tree-lighting ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

"For one person to blame a group for that, if that's what happened here, is uniquely anti-American," said Dwight Holton with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon. "And we'll pursue that with the full, the full force of the justice department."

A reporter with KATU's Eugene sister station, KVAL, spoke with an imam at the Salman AlFarisi Islamic Center. Yosof Wanly said he knew Mohamed Osman Mohamud as a student at the center. Wanly said Mohamud started attending this Corvallis mosque about a year and a half ago, and went to the mosque once or twice a month while he was attending Oregon State University last year and for the start of this year.

"I knew him as a student," Wanly said. "He never discussed jihad and it's unfortunate because he is bringing attention to Islam in a negative way. It's unfortunate that this one individual brings negativity to the Islamic religion."

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, community members plan to circle the mosque. Those attending will hold candles as a vigil to that which has been destroyed – through this fire and through the possible acts of one of its former attendees.

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Watch our 8:30 a.m. Sunday news report: