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On Friday afternoon, a fire broke out at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley in Coachella, Calif., a little more than 70 miles away from San Bernardino, Calif., where terrorists Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook shot and killed 14 people and wounded 21. Four people were inside the Islamic society's mosque at the time—luckily no one was injured and the fire was quickly extinguished by the Riverside County fire department.
Now, however, police are investigating the fire as a potential hate crime and as retaliation for the mass shooting in San Bernardino. Laura Eimiller, an FBI agent, said the bureau arrived on the scene to assist the fire department. "Any time there's a concern that a house of worship may have been targeted, we...have an investigative interest in the cause," she said.
According to KMIR News, The Riverside County Sheriff's Department says the building was fire bombed around noon. Fire crews contained the flame about 45 minutes later, but the mosque has been damaged by smoke throughout. The fire bomb has been described as a "Molotov cocktail-like device" that someone threw into the lobby of the mosque to start the blaze.
Alisa Shabazz, a Coachella resident who's been coming to the mosque for years, said she was shocked when she drove around the corner and saw fire trucks surrounding the building. "We said, 'what's happening?' and they said, 'somebody tried to blow up the mosque.' Why? For what reason? We're peaceful people. We don't terrorize people and we don't bomb people," she said. "I've been a Muslim all my life, and I've never had to deal with this." In fact Muslim Americans have been some of the most supportive in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, raising more than $100,000 for victims and their families.