Targeted mosque destroyed in fire
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.