Massive fire guts Australian Islamic center

 11 Dec 2016 - 12:29

Massive fire guts Australian Islamic center
Photo: AA.

AA

MELBOURNE, Australia: A reference to Islamic State has been found sprayed in both English and Arabic across the wall of an Islamic center in suburban Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, following a huge “suspicious” blaze in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The fire, which was reported at 2.30 a.m. (1530GMT Saturday) and took 50 minutes to bring under control, is under investigation by the Victoria Police arson squad.

The Age reported that the center has been the target of three arson attacks in the past six months. 

Speaking to the Herald Sun, Victoria Police’s detective senior constable Joseph Hartwig said: “Our initial appraisal of the scene seems to indicate suspicious circumstances as to how the fire began."

“It’s going to have a fairly substantial impact on the community around here. We’re trying to work as best we can with them.

“Our goal here is to identify who has done this, what the reason is and go from there.”

An unidentified member of the local Muslim community told The Age that the destruction of the prayer center would have a devastating impact.

"This is more than a place of worship. It is a place for education and information and community gatherings," the man said.

Mosques and Islamic community centers across Australia have been the targets of attacks and hate crimes by far-right groups.

In July a parked car was set alight outside a mosque in Perth; in May a mosque in a regional city in Victoria was destroyed by fire, and in December 2015 a pig’s head was left outside a prayer room in the University of Western Australia.