Tar­geted mosque de­stroyed in fire

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION -

An early-morn­ing fire Saturday de­stroyed a Texas mosque that was a tar­get of ha­tred sev­eral years ago and ex­pe­ri­enced a bur­glary just a week ago.

A clerk at a con­ve­nience store spot­ted smoke and flames bil­low­ing from the Is­lamic Cen­ter of Vic­to­ria about 2 a.m. and called the fire de­part­ment.

“It’s sad to stand there and watch it col­lapse down, and the fire was so huge,” Shahid Hashmi, the Is­lamic cen­ter’s pres­i­dent, said. “It looks com­pletely de­stroyed.”

Vic­to­ria Fire Mar­shal Tom Le­gler asked for help from the Texas Fire Mar­shal’s Of­fice and fed­eral Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives to de­ter­mine what caused the blaze. Hashmi said au­thor­i­ties have told him it was too early to spec­u­late. “We don’t have any lead or in­for­ma­tion as to what started the fire and what hap­pened,” he said.

The con­gre­ga­tion’s imam was awake in the early-morn­ing hours and checked on­line sur­veil­lance of the mosque and found no alarm ac­tive and the doors un­locked, Hashmi said. On Jan. 21, some­one broke in and stole some elec­tron­ics, in­clud­ing lap­tops.

“He was wor­ried about it and drove over there,” Hashmi said. “By that time, fire en­gines were al­ready there pour­ing wa­ter on the fire.” No in­juries were re­ported. The Vic­to­ria Ad­vo­cate on Saturday re­ported that in July 2013, a man ad­mit­ted to paint­ing “H8,” a com­puter short­hand for “hate,” on the out­side of the build­ing.

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