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Second Florida Mosque Hit by Arson Attack in 5 Months

A fire at a Florida mosque was ruled arson Friday, the second time an Islam house of worship was set on fire in the state since September, authorities said.

The Hillsborough County fire department responded to a call of a fire at the Islamic Society of New Tampa, Daarus Salaam Mosque in Thonotosass at around 2:10 a.m. and later determined that the small fire set near a door had been intentionally set, fire department spokesman Cory Dierdorff said.

Tampa Mayor Reacts to Mosque Arson 0:43

No one was inside the mosque at the time. The damage appeared minimal, but the fire had worshipper Arshaad Malik upset.

"It's a place of worship to God," Malik told NBC affiliate WESH. "You are trying to burn down a place of worship. Is this the tolerance that we have?"

Related: Growth in Anti-Muslim Hate Groups Seen in 2016, SLPC Report Says

In September, a Fort Pierce, Florida, mosque once attended by Pulse nightclub gunman Omar Mateen was set on fire. It took firefighters five hours to extinguish that blaze, and arrest was made in the case. No one was hurt in either incident.

New Tampa mosque fire
This handout photo shows damage to the Islamic Society of New Tampa in Thonotosassa, Florida, in a fire that has been ruled arson on Feb. 24, 2017. Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida

"This time another Florida mosque has been targeted in a crime that could have easily taken the life of any worshiper," Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida, said in a statement.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting in the investigation of Friday's fire.

Related: Federal Authorities Investigate Bomb Threats Targeting Jewish Centers

Thonotosassa is a community northeast of Tampa. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the city stands in solidarity with the mosque.

A vigil was held outside the Islamic Society of New Tampa Friday night. Imam Junaid Khan told the crowd that the show of support demonstrates that the act of arson doesn't reflect the community.

"I am thanking God for giving us this beautiful community, who came to us and have reached out to us in solidarity, in unity and showed the haters that this is the America we know," Imam Junaid Khan said, according to WESH. "This is the community we know. This is the Tampa we know."

Image:
An arson was reported at the Daarus Salaam Mosque on Morris Bridge Rd. in Thonotasassa, Fla., early Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. James Borchuck / The Tampa Bay Times via AP