Arson investigators are looking into a suspicious fire Sunday morning that gutted an Islamic mosque that has been the target of repeated vandalism, leaving hundreds of East Contra Costa County Muslims without a place of worship.
Contra Costa Fire crews and Antioch police responded about 12:30 a.m. to reports of smoke and flames spewing from the single-story Islamic Center of the East Bay on West 18th Street, Contra Costa Fire spokeswoman Emily Hopkins said.
Crews controlled the fire about 1 a.m., and investigators quickly determined the fire, which caused an estimated $200,000 in damages, was set intentionally, Hopkins said.
Four separate fires were set, but three went out before they could cause any damage, Abdul Rahman, chairman of the East Bay Islamic Center's board of trustees, said in a news conference Monday.
Fire investigators also contacted the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Hopkins said.
News of the fire sent fear and anger through the Bay Area Muslim community. "Our community is extremely concerned and disturbed about this act of violence," said Safaa Ibrahim, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Bay Area Chapter. "This is definitely an act of terror against this community."
Clergy and congregation members continued to sift through the charred remains of the mosque Monday. Leaders say it has been destroyed.