Mosque destroyed in early-morning blaze; cause unknown
Vandal painted 'H8' 3 years ago, building burglarized week ago
VICTORIA, Texas – An early-morning fire has destroyed a Texas mosque that had been a target of hatred in the past.
The Victoria Advocate reports that a convenience store clerk spotted smoke and flames billowing from the Islamic Center of Victoria at around 2 a.m. Saturday and called the fire department.
Jeff Cowan, battalion chief for the city's fire department, says firefighters and police officers found the mosque completely consumed in flames when they arrived.
The blaze was extinguished about four hours later. No injuries have been reported.
Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler has asked for help from state and federal fire investigators to determine what caused the blaze.
The Islamic center's president, Shahid Hashmi, wouldn't speculate about whether it was arson, but he says the building was burglarized a week ago. The paper reports that in July 2013, a man admitted to painting "H8," a computer shorthand for "hate," on the outside of the building.
The mosque has a congregation of 100 members. Victoria is about 115 miles southwest of Houston.