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North Texas mosque target of attempted firebombing

By The Associated Press
(9/13/01) A North Texas mosque was damaged in an apparent fire bombing attack early Thursday, prompting local authorities to enact a joint terrorism task force to investigate the incident.
Family terrorized
Read this exclusive account ABC13.com received about a Houston Islamic family scared to leave their home.
A Molotov cocktail was thrown against the side of the Islamic Society of Denton early Thursday morning, causing an estimated $2,500 in damage, said Kiersten Dieterle, a spokeswoman for the city of Denton, a suburb of Dallas.

A witness reported the fire to authorities about 2:30 a.m., Dieterle said. She said the building was unoccupied and there were no injuries.

Dieterle said the Molotov cocktail was made of a beer bottle and caused minor fire damage to the side of the building. The interior was not damaged, she said.

Dieterle said the task force, created in the wake of the 1993 Branch Davidian siege near Waco, will pool the resources of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Denton County Arson Force and other local law enforcement to help investigate the incident.

A telephone call to the Islamic Society was not answered Thursday morning.

It was the third mosque attack in two days in Texas following terrorist attacks along the East Coast that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the terrorists had possible ties to countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden is a top suspect.

Two other Dallas-area mosques were vandalized Wednesday.

At least six bullets shattered windows of the Islamic Center of Irving early Wednesday, causing about $3,000 in damage to the large pane windows fronting the shopping center location, officials said.

In nearby Carrollton, a window at the Islamic Center of Carrollton was smashed by a slingshot-type device, police said.

No injuries occurred at either incident, both of which were being investigated by police and the FBI.

During a Wednesday afternoon news conference, the FBI's special agent-in-charge in Dallas harshly criticize the vandalism.

"Quite frankly, I should not have to be wasting my time in doing vandalism-type cases with the national initiative with so many deaths and tragedies we've had over the last day," said Danny Defenbaugh.

Places of worship weren't the only buildings to be vandalized across Texas.

In San Antonio, police said the front door and front window of the Shiraz Persian restaurant was shattered by apparent gunfire.

The attack on the small family-owned restaurant happened around 2 a.m., city manager Barbara Joseph said. She said no one was injured.

Meanwhile, a Dallas-area organization that provides relief to Palestinians received threatening phone calls Tuesday.

Police placed a squad car outside the Holy Land Foundation as a precaution, said Richardson police spokesman Sgt. Keith Cannon.

Last week records were seized from Holy Land in an anti-terrorism investigation led by the FBI.

On Sept. 7 the U.S. Department of Commerce suspended the export privileges of InfoCom Corp. Inc., an Internet-services business that has close ties to Holy Land because of alleged illegal shipments to Libya and Syria.

A federal grand jury also subpoenaed records from Holy Land and other groups that did business with InfoCom. No charges have been brought against InfoCom or Holy Land. Both deny any link to terrorists.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Last Updated: Sep 13, 2001

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