New Haven officials investigating mosque fire as possible arson – WTNH.com

New Haven officials investigating mosque fire as possible arson - WTNH.com

New Haven firefighters battle multi-story blaze at mosque

Fire Chief John Alston announced Monday that a fire at the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven had been intentionally set.

Fire Chief John Alston announced Monday that a fire at the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven had been intentionally set.

Fire Chief John Alston announced Monday that a fire at the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven had been intentionally set.

New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said Monday investigators found evidence showing the fire at the Diyanet Mosque was intentionally set and a criminal investigation involving state and federal authorities has begun.

Fire Chief John Alston announced Monday that a fire at the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven had been intentionally set.

NEW HAVEN — The fire that scarred the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven Sunday was intentionally set, Fire Chief John Alston said Monday.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont visited the mosque and said he finds "an attack like this especially hurtful and hateful when you attack an institution for what people believe."

Video: Fire at Connecticut mosque to be investigated

Alston stood in the steady rain before the blackened front and the white minarets of the house of worship as he announced the initial results of the inquiry, gathered close to city officials and congregants from the mosque.

“…We’ve detected that there is intent in this fire. This was intentionally set,” said Alston, who said his heart went out to those who worship at the mosque.

Alston declined to say what evidence was found or whether there was surveillance footage of the area. Police Chief Otoniel Reyes said officials would not discuss any aspect of the investigation at this time to ensure its integrity is maintained.

According to the New Haven fire department Twitter account, the call came in shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday. The reports called it a two -alarm fire, which started on the structure’s first floor and spread to the second.

Reyes said the criminal investigation was in its infancy stages. He asked that anyone in the community with any information, “however minimal you think it might be,” come forward, as it may prove useful.

Several fire companies responded to the blaze, which was mostly under control shortly before 4:30 p.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

A reward of up to $2,500 has been offered for any information that leads to an arrest or conviction in the case, officials said.

NEW HAVEN — Parts of the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven on Middletown Avenue were damaged by a fire Sunday afternoon.

Gov. Ned Lamont said it was “especially hurtful and hateful” to attack a house of worship.

New Haven firefighters respond to a fire at the Diyanet Mosque of New Haven on Middletown Avenue on May 12, 2019.

“The one thing I find hopeful is, I heard from the Imam (that) other houses of worship, churches and synagogues, have stepped forward and said ‘we want to help.’ And what I heard here from the folks at this mosque is they welcome the help, but they want to worship right here in this place,” said Lamont. “And we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”

On Monday morning, a police car was parked in the otherwise-empty lot outside the mosque. Soon after noon, there was a truck from the New Haven Fire Department’s fire investigation unit at the scene as well.

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Yellow tape reading “police line — do not cross” barred entry to the house of worship.

Ahead of the press conference Monday, Mosque President Haydar Elevli said local churches had offered the congregation a place to hold services after Sunday’s fire, but no decision had been made as to where they’ll hold services.

The fire was a blow, he said — the mosque, under construction for some time, was months away from completion, and the blaze comes during the holy month of Ramadan.

Elevli said funds would be raised from the Muslim community and the Turkish government to help repair the damage and continue construction.

The Diyanet Center of America, the umbrella organization of which the New Haven mosque is a part, described the damage to the mosque as “huge” in a Facebook post Sunday and asked people to consider offering donations.

Diyanet Center of America is an operating name of the Turkish American Community Center, a Maryland-based non-profit, according to its website. The community center “was established in 1993 by a group of Turkish-Americans to provide religious, social and educational services to Turkish immigrants and Muslims” living in the United States, the site says.

“Diyanet Center of America receives its major support from Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), an institution of the Turkish Government,” the site says.

Elevli declined to comment after the press conference, noting, in response to a question, that it was somewhat of a relief to know the cause of the fire.

Fire officials reported Sunday that a two-alarm blaze broke out at the mosque, with fire on the first floor extending to the second.

Frank Ricci, president of Fire Union Local 825, said on Twitter that firefighters had saved the place of worship with an “(a)ggressive, coordinated fire attack and salvage.”

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Posted in New Haven