Special Agent Nicole Strong of the ATF’s Houston Field Division told CNN the fire at the Islamic Center of Houston had “multiple points of origin” and “appears suspicious.”
HOUSTON, Texas – A Christmas day fire being called “suspicious” by arson investigators damaged a southwest Houston mosque.
The two-alarm fire began about 2:45 on Friday. Arson investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) told reporters from KHOU CBS11 in Houston the fire appears to be suspicious because of multiple points of origin.
The investigators are searching video tape surveillance systems to determine if any suspects can be identified. The fire was extinguished shortly after fire crews arrived on the scene.
One person at the scene told reporters from ABC13 in Houston they didn’t have a kitchen or anything else that might accidentally start this type of fire. “The only thing is pointing to is it could be hate or something, you know,” Saleen Memon told reporters.
Another worshiper from the mosque offered a different possibility. “I was putting up my shoes and I smelled smoky,” the man said after telling the reporter he noticed some of the fans were not working and he has smelled smoke. He said he believed it could be an accident.
A prayer service had been held at the mosque at about 1 p.m. A co-owner of the shopping center told KHOU the fire didn’t begin until about one hour after the service had ended.
Mustafaa Carroll, executive director for the Houston Council on American-Islamic Relations, told ABC 13 they did not want to be premature in regards to speculation about the fire’s origin. “It makes it a little better if it’s an electrical fire but we’re hoping it’s not arson. It is one of the holiest days of the year for a lot of people. We revere profit Jesus these things for us are paramount,” Carroll told the reporter.