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Authorities investigating possible arson at California mosque

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March 25 (UPI) — Authorities are investigating a potential arson attack at a mosque in California early Sunday morning.

The fire broke out at 3:15 a.m. Sunday at Dar-ul-Arqam in Escondido, where Escondido Police Department Lt. Chris Lick said one of the mosque’s exterior walls were scorched and the suspect left a note referencing a mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand where 50 worshippers were killed.

An unidentifiable person was seen on the mosque’s security camera breaking a lock to a parking lot gate and setting a flammable liquid on fire near a side door.

“If it’s an arson, it’s possibly a hate crime as well,” Lick said.

Seven people were inside the mosque at the time of the fire and they were able to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher before firefighters arrived on the scene.

“There are people who sleep there overnight,” said Yusef Miller, a member of the Muslim community in Escondido. “They heard the sounds, they smelled some funny smells and there was a letter saying something connecting to New Zealand at the same time. So, this made everybody especially on edge.”

Officers and firefighters arrived soon after and quickly determined the fire was intentionally set and Lick said an unspecified accelerant was used to set the blaze.

Police said the suspect left a message in graffiti in the mosque’s parking lot that was later covered in dirt and authorities did not reveal what the graffiti said.

Morning prayer at the center was canceled while authorities investigated the area.

“Everyone should remain absolutely vigilant and watchful at their prayer centers,” Lick said. “If there are people who are not supposed to be there, please give us a call.”

Lick added that the EPD began doing extra patrols in the area.

“Although we are heightened in our awareness, we’re still resolved in the idea that there are people here that love us and support us,” Miller said.

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