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FBI helping investigate fire at Joplin mosque

Thursday, July 5, 2012 | 10:02 a.m. CDT; updated 1:41 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 5, 2012

JOPLIN — The FBI has joined an investigation into the second fire at a Joplin mosque in four years.

The blaze early Wednesday burned a 4-by-6-foot section of shingles atop the Islamic Society of Joplin's building. Firefighters extinguished the flames before they could do further damage, authorities told The Joplin Globe.

Capt. Kelly Stephens of the Jasper County Sheriff's Department said investigators were studying security camera footage but he would not say what the tapes showed.

About 50 families are members of the Islamic Society of Joplin, which opened the building in 2007 as a mosque and community center, society officials said. The FBI led an investigation in 2008 when the mosque's sign was torched; that crime remains unsolved.

Fire Chief Bill Dunn, in the neighboring town of Carl Junction, said a passer-by noticed the fire about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and called his department. Dunn said he and others examined the roof after the fire was out.

"We noticed a bunch of what looked like paper up there," he said. "Somebody lit them and threw them up there."

Iftikhar Ali, president of the Islamic Society of Joplin, said he was at the property until about midnight Tuesday. He said his family and other community members were lighting fireworks.

"We were having fun and celebrating Independence Day," Ali said.

Ali said the center often holds interfaith services and meetings with churches and synagogues.

Stephens said investigators had finished processing the scene Wednesday afternoon and that evidence was being sent off for testing.

"All the credit goes to the good Samaritan who called the fire department," said Asadullah Ahmed, a member of the mosque. "We are very fortunate."


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