Police are searching for an arsonist suspected of starting a fire at an Escondido mosque and leaving graffiti referencing deadly attacks at two mosques in New Zealand. The fire was reported around 3a.m. Sunday at the Islamic Center of Escondido on West Sixth Avenue near South Escondido Boulevard, according to Escondido police.
Seven people were inside the building when they noticed a fire had broken out on the outer walls of the mosque, Lt. Chris Lick said. They were able to get the fire out with a fire extinguisher and called 911. No one was injured and the fire caused only minor damage to the outside of the building, Lick said. Investigators say an accelerant was used to set the fire. No suspect descriptions were immediately available.
Graffiti was left on the building making reference to the attacks that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this month, Lick said. Escondido police and fire investigators, the San Diego County Sheriff's Bomb/Arson Unit and agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were investigating the incident as an arson and a hate crime.
Anyone with information should call Escondido police to report suspicious activity in the area of the mosque. Anyone with information about the fire was asked to call the police department at (760) 839-4722 or the anonymous tip line at (760) 743-8477.
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