The Houston Fire Department said Saturday investigators believe the two-alarm blaze at a mosque was intentionally set.
KHOU.com reported investigators are taking a look at surveillance video in the shopping center where the Islamic Society of Greater Houston is located. Houston firefighters responded to the fire around 2:45 p.m. Friday, according to Fox 26 Houston. It took about 80 firefighters to quench the blaze.
It’s unclear about how much of the mosque was damaged, but officials say several other shops in the plaza were damaged by the heavy smoke. Nobody was injured in the fire.
ATF Special Agent Nicole Strong with the agency’s Houston Field Division said Friday the fire was deemed suspicious because the blaze had “multiple points of origin,” which is an indicator fire accelerant may have been used.
Mustafaa Carroll, who is the executive director for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on law enforcement to investigate, citing a recent spike in vandalism to mosques that have prompted hate crime investigations.
"We urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this fire," he said in a statement.
Dramane Diallo, who is responsible for opening the worship center for prayer every morning, told The Houston Chronicle that the center has no kitchen or equipment that would easily cause an electrical fire.
"It's very hard to believe it was an accident," Diallo said.
Houston authorities spent most of their Saturday at the mosque, combing through evidence and interviewing shop owners.
One worker told Fox 26 Houston Friday that mechanically, everything checked out. However, worshippers told the station they were unconvinced that foul play was involved.
“Come on. We could make speculation out of this,” said Sikindar Khan. “Stuff happens all the time. I doubt it, I doubt it.”
“I know it was a short circuit. Accident. Nothing more,” Dr. Muhammad Yousef added.
Mosque officials warned parishioners not to spread rumors about how the fire started and vowed to rebuild the mosque as quickly as possible, according to KHOU.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.