Representative Image REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Houston: An early-morning fire on Saturday gutted a Texas mosque that had been a target of hate in the past. Firefighters and several engines were dispatched to the burning building in South Texas, Victoria, immediately after a convenience store clerk spotted smoke and flames billowing from the Islamic Center of Victoria at around 2 AM and called the fire department.
The blaze was extinguished about four hours later. No injuries have been reported.
Fire crews and police officers arrived to find the mosque completely consumed in flames, said Jeff Cowan, Battalion Chief of the Victoria Fire Department.
Cowan said firefighters did not discover anyone inside the burning building.
Victoria Fire Marshal investigators were carrying out an investigation into the fire’s cause, he said.
The Victoria Fire Marshal’s Office has requested help in their investigation from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
As investigators began their work, almost 20 members of mosque conducted the first prayer of the day on the sidewalk across the street from the destroyed mosque.
The Islamic center’s president, Shahid Hashmi, refused to speculate about whether it was arson, but said the building was burglarised a week ago.
A media report said that in July 2013, a man admitted to painting “H8,” a computer shorthand for “hate,” on the outside of the building.
The mosque has a congregation of 100 members. Victoria is about 185 km southwest of Houston.