Malaysia po­lice ar­rest seven boys linked to fire at school

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Eileen Ng

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian po­lice said Satur­day they have ar­rested seven boys sus­pected of in­ten­tion­ally start­ing a fire at an Is­lamic board­ing school that killed 23 peo­ple be­cause stu­dents there had teased them.

Kuala Lumpur po­lice chief Amar Singh said the boys, aged 11 to 18, were rounded up since Fri­day night after they were iden­ti­fied in CCTV footage from a neigh­bor­ing build­ing that showed them near the school the night of the fire.

The pre-dawn blaze Thurs­day at a three-story “tah­fiz” school, where Mus­lim boys study and mem­o­rize the Qu­ran, blocked the lone exit to the dor­mi­tory on the top floor, trap­ping stu­dents be­hind barred win­dows. Two adults and 21 stu­dents, aged be­tween 6 and 17, were killed.

“From our in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the mo­tive be­hind the mis­chief was due to a mis­un­der­stand­ing after the sus­pects and some tah­fiz stu­dents mocked each other a few days be­fore the fire,” Singh said at a tele­vised news con­fer­ence.

Singh said six of the seven sus­pects tested pos­i­tive for drugs. Two of them had been de­tained be­fore, one on charges of ve­hi­cle theft, an­other for ri­ot­ing, he said.

He said it is be­lieved that two cook­ing gas tanks were brought up to the top floor and used to start the fire, which spread rapidly and took fire­fight­ers an hour to ex­tin­guish.

Singh said the seven are all school dropouts and will be un­der po­lice re­mand for a week. He said the case has been clas­si­fied as mur­der and mis­chief by fire.

Singh said the school is also be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for flout­ing build­ing safety rules.

Of­fi­cials have said the school was op­er­at­ing with­out a fire safety per­mit and li­cense, and that a di­vid­ing wall was il­le­gally built on the top floor that blocked the vic­tims from a se­cond exit.

Fire­fight­ers and wit­nesses have de­scribed scenes of hor­ror — first of boys scream­ing for help be­hind barred win­dows as neigh­bors watched help­lessly, and later of burned bod­ies hud­dled in cor­ners of the room.

Of­fi­cials ini­tially said they sus­pected the fire was caused by an elec­tri­cal short-cir­cuit but later said this wasn’t the case.

Daniel Chan The As­so­ci­ated Press

Rel­a­tives cry at a funeral Fri­day for vic­tims of a school fire out­side of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Po­lice say the fire was set by boys an­gry over teas­ing by stu­dents at the school.

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