The FBI is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who can connect a suspect to a fire that damaged a southeastern Missouri Islamic center last week, Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper reported.
The timing is especially significant because the fire was started on the first day of Ramadan, a Muslim holy month. The fire began at the front door of the building, according to the Missouri chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group.
Twelve to 15 people were evacuated and uninjured, according to state officials. Meanwhile, the building itself was “extensively damaged,” including the front entrance and the second floor, Fire Chief Travis Hollis said.
“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,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director, in a statement.
The fire at Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau is currently being investigated by the Federal Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, as well as the state’s fire marshal, as a potential case of arson, according to Al Jazeera.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson took to Twitter to condemn the fire.
“In Missouri, we won’t tolerate an attack on any house of worship,” he said. “This was a cowardly act.”
Local law enforcement said that a man had made threats against the center about two years ago. It is unknown if these incidents are connected.
The reward was announced on Friday by Richard Quinn, a special agent in charge of the St. Louis Division.
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