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Minneapolis police ask for help to find possible suspect after multiple alleged arson attempts at area mosques


By David Close, CNN

Minneapolis police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a possible suspect linked to separate fires at area mosques on Sunday and Monday.

The police department posted pictures of the person along with the plea for assistance on Facebook. Surveillance video and pictures of the possible suspect were released after fires were set at the Mall 24 mosque Sunday and the Mercy Center mosque Monday.

No one was hurt in either incident. Police said there have been no arrests.

It is unclear whether the fires at the two mosques are connected, but in a news release obtained by CNN affiliate KARE on Tuesday, the chief said, “Due to the totality of the circumstances, we will investigate these fires as if they are connected until proven otherwise.”

Surveillance video from Sunday shows a masked person carrying a large brown bag that a Muslim community leader says held a container full of fuel that was used to light a fire in the Mall 24 mosque’s bathroom.

Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told CNN that worshippers disrupted the possible suspect, who fled the scene.

“We averted a major tragedy. The amount of liquid that he brought to cause the harm that we are expecting here — this mall could have been engulfed but it wasn’t,” Hussein said Monday.

Major damage to the mosque was averted when “most of the fuel poured down the (floor) drain,” Hussein said.

In a news conference Monday, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said there is an active investigation and that the department has been in contact with the FBI and US Attorney’s Office.

“This is now potentially an act of arson that occurred in a house of worship. So, now it is potentially a federal offense,” O’Hara said.

CNN has reached out to police for comment on the alleged attacks.

On Monday, the city’s fire department also responded to the fire at the Mercy Center mosque. Hussein told CNN full credit goes to the fire department, who saved the mosque from serious damage.

Including the two recent incidents, Hussein told CNN there have been four hits on Minneapolis’ mosques so far this year.

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