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Bullets pock mosque as Muslims mark Ramadan

No members are injured, but one outside takes cover. Patrols are being beefed up around the mosque, Melbourne police say.

Published September 24, 2006

MELBOURNE - A mosque was hit by gunfire as members inside celebrated the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, authorities said Saturday.

No injuries were reported, and there were no arrests.

A member of the Islamic Society of Brevard County stepped outside the mosque Friday night to use his cell phone when he heard several gunshots, police said.

The man, who was not immediately identified, took cover behind a wall as several rounds struck the building, police said. He then ran inside and told mosque members, who called police.

Authorities searched the surrounding area for suspects but found none.

A pair of binoculars, footprints and tire tracks were found in the woods across from the mosque, said Melbourne police spokeswoman Jill Frederiksen. Investigators are still trying to determine if they are related to the case, Frederiksen said.

No other details were released, but the investigation is ongoing, Frederiksen said. Detectives were working to determine a reason for the shooting.

Police will begin extra patrols around the mosque in Melbourne, about 50 miles east-southeast of Orlando.

The shooting happened on the start of Ramadan, a holiday that centers on inner reflection and reconnecting with God and family, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said.

"It was very scary that this happened under what most regard as a peaceful time of year," CAIR-Orlando executive director Sabiha Khan said.

Ibrahim Hooper, a national CAIR spokesman, said that while no motive had been determined by police, the shooting fit a pattern of incidents at mosques this year.

A bullet-riddled Koran was left outside a mosque in Chattanooga, Tenn., and an Indiana mosque was vandalized. There were other incidents at mosques in Maine, Arizona and Maryland.

"Worshipers of the mosque would obviously be disturbed if (religion) was the motive for the attack," Hooper said Saturday.

[Last modified September 24, 2006, 01:11:26]

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