Investigators Say Victoria Mosque Fire Was Arson

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The blaze that gutted a Victoria mosque in late January was the result of arson, according to investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

On Wednesday, the ATF's Houston field office announced a $30,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the person or people responsible for the fire that tore through the Texas mosque β€” a reward funded by equal $10,000 contributions by the ATF, the Victoria Islamic Center, and the local crime stoppers. The fire demolished the town's 16-year-old Islamic center, causing an estimated half-million dollars in damage and torching the center's financial and legal records. A local synagogue, Temple B'nai Israel, has offered to give the center's 100 or so members a temporary home until a new mosque can be built.

While the timing of the fire made some suspect it could have been motivated by Islamophobia (it came just a day after President Donald Trump tried to block people from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States), officials on Wednesday said that, so far at least, there's no evidence of that. β€œAt this time, the evidence does not indicate the fire was a biased crime,” the bureau said in a press release.

In a prepared statement, the Islamic Center said its members "are saddened & alarmed by the outcome of the investigation. Despite several indications of arson, we offered prayers of hope that the cause of fire would be accident rather than intentional act." (You can read the full statement here.)

Regardless of what motivated the crime, local leaders say the fire has actually been a unifying moment for the town. The day following the blaze, some 400 supporters met in font of the torched mosque for an interfaith prayer rally. A gofundme page has already raised $1.1 million for the center's rebuilding.


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