US police foil mass shooting plot targeting Muslims at Florida mosque

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published

A 69-year-old Philippines national accused of planning a mass shooting at an Islamic center in Jacksonville, Florida has been arrested by police.

Police launched an investigation into the suspect, Bernandino Gawala Bolatete, after a tipoff in October. The man had allegedly expressed anti-Islamic sentiments and threatened to "shoot up" a local mosque, prompting a source to report him to police, Sheriff Mike Williams said Monday during a news conference.

An undercover officer met with Bolatete and confirmed his intent to carry out an attack at the Islamic Center in Northeast Florida during Friday prayers, according to the sheriff's office.

"Keep shooting those Muslims, you know, on Friday," Bolatete allegedly told the officer.

He alluded to planning the shooting on a Friday, the day of the week when Muslims gather at mosques for prayer.

Bolatete also mentioned to the officer he owned five firearms, including an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that could be converted into an AR-47.

Bolatete had begun planning how to carry out the shooting, including acquiring weapons. He had asked the undercover detective to arrange delivery of a silencer to his house Dec. 1, Sheriff Williams said.

As the delivery arrived, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office SWAT raided Bolatete's home, and the FBI took him into custody.

FBI Special Agent Charles Spencer said, "The suspect is facing a federal charge under the National Firearms Act of knowingly receiving and possessing a firearm not registered to him. This investigation is ongoing and there may be more charges."

Spencer did not elaborate on what weapons were found in Bolatete's home.

Authorities later informed the Islamic center of the thwarted attack and ongoing investigation.

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