New details emerge in hunt for mosque arsonist

New details emerge in hunt for mosque arsonist
Capt. Jonathan Sassman, of the Corvallis Police Department, looks over fire damage inside the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010, in Corvallis, Ore. Officials said arson caused the fire at the Islamic center that was the occasional place of worship for Somali-born teen, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who two days ago was arrested on charges of plotting a terror attack at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland. No injuries have been reported. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — The fire at an Islamic center where the man accused of plotting a bombing in Portland sometimes worshipped appears to have been started by someone who broke an office window and tossed a container of flammable liquid inside, police said Tuesday.

Corvallis police Capt. Jonathan Sassaman told The Associated Press the window to the center's office was not broken enough for someone to enter, and the fire inside burned hot enough to melt many items.

Sassaman said evidence — including the entire window — has been shipped to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va., in hopes of finding fingerprints, DNA and identifying the type of flammable liquid that was used.

"Certainly it spread in the room," Sassaman said of the liquid. "Lots of items were melted."

The Sunday fire burned about 80 percent of an office at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center, where Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, sometimes worshipped while he was a student at Oregon State University.

"It's not a drive-by." Sassaman said of the fire, which came two days after Mohamud's arrest. "They broke a window, then tossed an accelerant inside."

Mohamud has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in an alleged plot to set off a car bomb last Friday in downtown Portland while thousands of people were gathered for the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Sassaman said whoever set the fire would have had to drive around to the back of the building, then walk past the mosque entrance to the office window.

No footprints were found below the window.

"You'd have to know what you're doing," he said.

 

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.