Police, federal authorities probe St. Paul mosque fire
St. Paul police and authorities with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating a fire at a mosque Wednesday morning near the Minnesota Capitol.
The fire was reported around 8:30 a.m. at the Oromo American Tawhid Islamic Center, 430 Dale Street, just north of Interstate 94. The building was unoccupied and under renovation. No injuries were reported.
St. Paul fire investigators Wednesday described the fire as a suspected arson. Keith Walker, who works next door and saw smoke coming from the mosque, said he’s noticed people who appear to be homeless staying in the building.
St. Paul police deputy chief Joshua Lego said officers had previously been called to the building on reports of vandalism in what appeared to be a vacant building. He said there was no immediate evidence that the fire Wednesday morning had been motivated by religious or racial enmity.
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Representatives of the congregation, the largest Oromo Islamic congregation in the east metro, said they had been worshipping at the site for more than a decade but had recently purchased a larger building and were renovating the site when it burned.
The center is the spiritual home for about 300 families and more than 1,000 people. Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations Minnesota chapter, said it’s the largest ethnic Oromo Islamic congregation in the area.
If investigators determine that someone set the fire deliberately, it would be the sixth act of vandalism against a Minnesota mosque so far this year.
Correction (May 17, 2023): This story has been updated with correct spelling of the center.