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Texas mosque blaze deemed 'suspicious'

The fire caused 'significant' damage, but the investigation thus far not yielded any arrests
In February, another mosque was set ablaze (MEE/Jacob Powell)

US authorities on Saturday were investigating a suspicious fire at a mosque that took place on Christmas Day in Texas, weeks after a mass shooting in California by a Muslim couple that sparked fears of a backlash against members of their faith. No one was hurt.

The blaze at the mosque in Houston began mid-afternoon, according to the local NBC broadcast affiliate KPRC. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials defined the fire as “suspicious” because it had multiple points of origin.

The Houston Fire Department said in a press release that the fire caused "significant" damage. The ATF, the Houston Police Department and the Houston Fire Department's Arson Bureau are in the midst of collecting evidence.

No one has been arrested yet, added the officials, who are reviewing surveillance footage.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on investigators to look into foul play.

"Because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this fire," the executive director of the group's Houston chapter, Mustafaa Carroll, said in a statement.

"Officials are checking surveillance video and say the cause of the fire is 'suspicious,'" the statement said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking into the incident, according to local news reports. 

Earlier this month, authorities investigated a suspected case of arson at a mosque in Palm Springs, California.

On December 2, a Muslim couple killed 14 people and injured 22 others in an assault in the California city of San Bernardino that is being investigated by the FBI as a terror attack.

The rampage has raised fears of a backlash against the Muslim community in the United States, especially in the wake of anti-Muslim rhetoric by Republican White House hopeful Donald Trump.

It was not the first time a mosque has been set on fire in Houston. In early February, Middle East Eye reported on a mosque blaze that caused $200,000 in damages.

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