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A Fire At A Mosque In New Haven Is Being Investigated As Arson

A fire at a mosque that broke out Sunday in New Haven, Connecticut, is being investigated as arson, officials said.

One person had been inside the Diyanet Mosque at the time of the blaze, but got out unharmed.

The building, however, was damaged and is currently unusable, New Haven Fire Chief John Alston told the Associated Press.

Alston said there is evidence the fire, which occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, was set intentionally.

He declined to say more while the investigation is still underway.

Fire officials are working with mosque staff to coordinate saving religious artifacts, Alston said.

Police and fire officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment by BuzzFeed News.

This incident comes less than two months after another fire was set at a mosque in Escondido, California, which was later claimed by the Poway synagogue shooting suspect, who referenced the Christchurch mosque shooting in an online manifesto.

Just last month in Hartford — less than an hour away from New Haven — staff at a mosque received a violently racist phone call threatening to burn down the building, according to the Hartford Courant newspaper.

The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on law enforcement to investigate a possible bias motive for the New Haven fire.

“Given recent attacks on houses of worship in this country and around the world, it is incumbent on law enforcement authorities to investigate the possibility of a bias motive for this arson,” said CAIR-CT Executive Director Tark Aouadi.

New Haven interim Police Chief Otoniel Reyes said the department is “taking this very serious.”

“We are working with our federal and state partners to make sure that there is no underlying issue to the greater community and to the greater religious community,” Reyes said.

After the fire, members of the Muslim community visited the mosque, which was in use despite still being partially under construction.

“I feel shocked and sorry. We were planning to come and have dinner tonight over here,” congregant Telat Bozan told NBC Connecticut. “Everyone was hoping when it was being finished, want to see how it looked, excited. It was very nice for the community.”

Mosque President Haydar Elevli told the New Haven Register that some local churches have offered that the congregation can use their space for services.

“We’re going to keep going,” said Elevli.

In February 2017, construction at the mosque was temporarily halted after city officials deemed the minarets too tall to meet local codes. The minarets were later shortened to comply with building codes.

In a tweet on Monday, Gov. Ned Lamont called the “hate-fueled attack” at the local mosque “disgusting and appalling.”

“There is no place for it in our state or our nation,” Lamont said. “We will work w/ our local counterparts in New Haven to assist in the investigation and ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

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