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Arson Suspected After Fire Damages Mosque Near Palm Springs

COACHELLA ( — The FBI is investigating a fire at a mosque in the Palm Springs area as arson.

Flames broke out just after noon at the Islamic Center of Palm Springs in Coachella, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

Reymundo Nour, the mosque's acting imam, said witnesses reported hearing a "loud boom" before seeing flames. He said he believes the mosque was "fire-bombed."

The fire was contained to the building's front lobby. No one was hurt.

The mosque is about 75 miles from San Bernardino, where Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 of his co-workers and injured 21 others on Dec. 2.

In a statement released Friday evening, California Rep. Raul Ruiz, whose district includes the area in which the mosque is located, called on authorities to investigate the fire as a possible hate crime.

"Our faith in humanity will not be intimidated," he said. "And we stand together against any form (of) violence towards the innocent." 

The FBI was assisting local law enforcement in determining the cause, agency spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also plans to help in the investigation.

In December 2014, police investigated a report of shots fired at the Islamic Center as a possible hate crime. No one was arrested in that case.

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