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A mosque in southwest Missouri burned to the ground early Monday in the second fire to hit the Islamic center in little more than a month, officials said.
The fire at the Islamic Society of Joplin was reported about 3:30 a.m. Monday, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff’s department said the building was a total loss. No injuries were reported and no charges have been filed.
Imam Lahmuddin, who leads the mosque and was in the building until late Sunday, said he was “sad and shocked” by the fire.
“I’m still in front of the building looking at the damage and nothing can be saved,” Lahmuddin said in a telephone interview Monday. “But since we are people of faith we just can remember that this is a thing that happened because God let it happen, and we have to be patient, particularly in the month of Ramadan, control our emotions, our anger.”
A blaze at the same building July 4 caused minor damage and was determined arson. No arrests were made and the FBI has offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to charges in that fire. The agency released video footage of what appeared to be a man starting the July blaze that did not cause extensive damage.
FBI spokeswoman Bridgett Patton said the agency is investigating the cause of the latest fire and whether or not it was also the result of arson.
Sharon Rhine, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said the center’s security cameras were burned in the Monday fire.
About 50 families belong to the Islamic Society of Joplin, which opened in 2007 as a mosque and community center. The FBI led an investigation in 2008 when the mosque’s sign was torched. That crime also remained unsolved.
Lahmuddin, who has lived in Joplin for about four years, said several people were at the center late Sunday. He said despite the attacks, the center’s members have good relationships with residents and other churches. He said many are doctors at area hospitals.
The latest fire came a day after a gunman killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The imam said it was a cause of great concern that both faiths had seemingly come under attack.
“I heard that yesterday, and this morning we see this happen in our place,” he said. “We are more fortunate that no one here got hurt in this incident.”
A second fire in less than five weeks occurred at a mosque in Joplin, Missouri early Monday morning. The cause of the latest inferno is still unknown, but Monday’s flames were much more devastating than those that occurred July 4, in an incident that authorities later determined was an act of arson.
Video shot by local television news station KSNF on Monday captured massive flames engulfing the building.
Firefighters were called to the scene at the Islamic Center of Joplin around 3:30 a.m., according to KSNF.
The Jasper County Sheriff’s Office told TPM a news conference has been planned for Monday afternoon, and that ATF and the FBI will be involved in the investigation.
“The building was completely destroyed; along with the security cameras,” Jasper County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sharon Rhine said in an email. “We don’t know at this time if it was arson.”
The FBI was involved with the investigation of the July fire, which was also set at approximately 3:30 a.m. The fire was contained on the roof, and extinguished by the Jasper County Fire Department. On July 16, the FBI announced that surveillance video showed “an unidentified white male walking up to the building and throwing an ignited object onto the roof.” The bureau released a still image of the suspect from the video, and announced that the FBI and ATF were offering a combined reward of $15,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or people responsible.
Update 12:18 p.m.: A FBI spokesperson confirmed to TPM that the bureau is assisting the investigation of the latest fire.
“We’re still waiting on a determination on what the cause of the fire was,” spokesperson Bridget Patton said.
Patton added that the mosque was vacant at the time of the fire.
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