Police investigate North County mosque fire as arson, hate crime

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SAN DIEGO -- Police believe a Sunday morning fire at the Islamic Center of Escondido was set intentionally, describing the blaze as an arson and hate crime.

Flames broke out at the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Escondido Boulevard around 3:30 a.m., according to the Escondido Police Department.

Seven people were inside the mosque at the time of the blaze, but no injuries were reported after someone used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. There was minor damage to the exterior of the mosque.

A note was found at the place of worship referencing the New Zealand massacre, officers told reporters. Supporters who organized an "interfaith prayer and security vigil" Sunday evening also said that hateful graffiti was discovered at the scene, but police did not comment directly on that detail.

"The incident is being investigated as both an arson and a hate crime," Escondido Police Department said in a release.

“We had two younger kids out here. One of them, their message was that he was heartbroken, and he feels like he’s unsafe anywhere he goes,” Seliman Yonus told FOX 5. “It’s a sad event to take place."

Police said no suspects had been identified, but detectives were working with FBI and ATF agents to investigate.

Anyone with information about the attack was urged to call EPD, or use their confidential tip line at 760-743-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be submitted on the department's website.

The vigil and prayer session was held at 8 p.m. at the Islamic Center

"We will stand together in love and prayer as we show our unified support for the members of this local Mosque and for the Muslim community at large," organizers said. "All are welcome to attend."

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