FBI investigate 'suspicious' fire at Missouri Islamic Center, offer $5,000 for information leading to arrest
Richard Quinn, the special agent in charge of the St. Louis Division, announced the award Friday, hours after the fire broke out early that morning at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau.
Twelve to 15 people were evacuated and escaped injury. Fire Chief Travis Hollis said the damage to the building was extensive.
A man was captured on a security camera engaging in ''suspicious activity" shortly before the fire broke out, at 5a.m., according to another local Fire Department official, The New York Times report.
A fundraising page has been set up for the mosque, recieving which has so far gained $70,000 in donations. According to the page's organiser, futher inspection has revealed the building to be at a ''total loss'', requiring $1 million in repair costs.
The Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group, said the fire began at the front door of the building.
CAIR noted the timing of the blaze - Thursday night was the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month during which Muslims fast and pray from dawn till dusk.
"Because the fire was deemed 'suspicious,' and because it occurred at a house of worship on a significant religious date, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for the blaze," CAIR's national communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, said in a statement.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the state fire marshal also are investigating the fire.
Sgt. Joseph Hann, a Cape Girardeau police spokesman, said a man had made threats against the center about two years ago, prompting the department to post an officer outside.
Cape Girardeau is about 115 miles south of St. Louis.
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