Authorities are investigating the cause of a fire that damaged a mosque in Southern California. Witnesses described the fire as possible arson.
The flames were reported just after noon local time at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs.
Matt Guilhem with NPR member station KVCR reports that no one was injured in the blaze and it was contained to the front lobby. He adds:
“People at the mosque when the fire began say they heard a loud bang and then saw flames. The mosque’s imam – who wasn’t on the scene at the time – describes the incident as a firebombing.
“Given the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, the FBI is assisting local law enforcement with the investigation. The Riverside County Sheriff’s office is remaining tight lipped on whether the incident is being investigated as arson.
“This wouldn’t be the first time the Islamic Center of Palm Springs has been targeted; in 2014 it was shot at in what was investigated as a possible hate crime.”
The Associated Press reports: “The mosque is about 75 miles from San Bernardino, where last week a couple who federal officials say were inspired by Islamist extremists killed 14 people. Some Muslims in Southern California and beyond have worried about the potential for reprisals, while leaders of various faiths have called for tolerance.”