Wednesday 28 September 2016

FBI probes fire at California mosque

Published 12/12/2015 | 03:56

Firefighters battle flames at the Islamic Centre of Palm Springs, a mosque in Coachella, California (KMIR-TV/AP)
Firefighters battle flames at the Islamic Centre of Palm Springs, a mosque in Coachella, California (KMIR-TV/AP)

A southern California mosque has been damaged in a fire reported to authorities as a possible arson.

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Flames were reported just after noon at the Islamic Centre of Palm Springs, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. The fire was contained to the small building's front lobby, and no-one was injured.

People there described hearing a "loud boom" and seeing flames, said Reymundo Nour, the mosque's acting imam, who was not on the site at the time. He said the mosque had been "firebombed".

A spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department declined to say whether the fire was being investigated as arson.

The FBI was assisting local law enforcement in determining the fire's cause, an agency spokeswoman said.

The mosque is about 75 miles from San Bernardino, where last week a couple who federal officials say were inspired by Islamist extremists killed 14 people.

Some Muslims in southern California and beyond have worried about the potential for reprisals, while leaders of various faiths have called for tolerance.

The mosque was hit by gunfire in November 2014 in what authorities investigated as a possible hate crime. No-one was injured in the incident.

The case remains under investigation, and no arrests have been made.

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