Houston mosque fire ‘appears suspicious,’ says ATF

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A Friday fire at a Houston mosque had “multiple points of origin” and “appears suspicious,” according to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman.

The Islamic Center of Houston caught fire after Friday prayers, when the place was “pretty much empty,” center president M.J. Khan said.

No injuries were reported in the two-alarm fire, drawing 80 firefighters, according to officials and CNN affiliate KTRK.

The mosque was in a strip mall, and the smoke also damaged a pharmacy next door, the affiliate reported.

Special Agent Nicole Strong of the ATF’s Houston Field Division said the agency assisted in the investigation as it typically does “when houses of worship are affected.”

Strong said it was “too soon to (determine) cause and origin” of the fire. She said the blaze had “multiple points of origin” and that it “appears suspicious.”

Khan said Saturday prayers will be moved to a new location. “We are hoping it was an accident,” he said.

FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap in Houston said the agency is aware of the fire, “but none of our personnel are on scene.”

The Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on authorities to investigate the fire for an anti-Muslim motive.

“Because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this fire,” Mustafaa Carroll, the chapter’s executive director, said in a statement.

By Michael Martinez and Kevin Conlon, CNN

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