US mosque bombing suspect shot dead

2011-05-05 10:01

Orienta - A man wanted in the bombing of a Florida mosque was shot and killed on Wednesday when he brandished a weapon as agents tried to serve an arrest warrant in northwest Oklahoma, FBI officials said.

Sandlin Matthews Smith, aged 46, of Florida, pulled out a firearm as federal and state law enforcement officers approached him in a field at Glass Mountain State Park near Orienta and asked him to surrender, said FBI Special Agent Jeff Westcott of Jacksonville, Florida.

Westcott said agents learned late on Tuesday that Smith was staying in a tent in the park, located in the rugged foothills of the Glass Mountains in northwest Oklahoma.

"During the overnight hours, the Oklahoma City FBI SWAT team, along with the assistance of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, set up a perimeter around the area," Westcott said.

Agent Clayton Simmonds at the FBI's Oklahoma City office said Smith was taken to a hospital in Fairview, where he was pronounced dead.

Reporters were kept back about two miles from the scene of the shooting, which is located in a sparsely populated area of Major County. Simmonds said he didn't think there were any other campers at the park.

Centre commends police

Smith was facing several federal charges, including damage to religious property and possession of a destructive device, in connection with the May 10 2010, bombing of the Islamic Centre of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville.

No one was hurt in that explosion, but authorities found remnants of a crude pipe bomb at the scene, and shrapnel from the blast was found a hundred metres away.

The centre issued a statement commending law enforcement officers' diligence in finding the person responsible for the blast.

"The membership and constituents of the Islamic Centre of Northeast Florida join all citizens of goodwill in Jacksonville to express their relief that any threat posed by the person suspected in the bombing of the Islamic Centre has ceased as well as convey their regret that any lives were lost," the statement read.

Simmonds said it's unclear why Smith was in Oklahoma. He said the shooting still was being investigated.

"I'm not at liberty to say who fired on him," Simmonds said.