February 8, 2017 / 9:41 PM / in 6 months

Texas mosque fire called arson, reward offered - ATF

2 Min Read

The structure of a mosque is seen one day after a fire at the Victoria Islamic Center inn Victoria, Texas January 29, 2017.Mohammad Khursheed

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A January fire that gutted a Texas mosque has been ruled arson, with a reward of up to $30,000 offered for tips leading to arrests, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Wednesday.

The fire at the Victoria Islamic Center, about 125 miles (200 km) southwest of Houston, was started just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Authorities have found no evidence linking the fire with the order.

U.S. Islamic rights groups have said they saw the fire as part of a growing wave of bigotry toward Muslims in the country.

"Houses of worship are a sacred place in this country, and ATF is committed to devoting the necessary resources to solving this crime," Fred Milanowski, the special agent in charge of the ATF Houston Field Division, said in a statement.

The fire destroyed the building and caused about $500,000 in damages, the ATF said. The Houston Field Division of the ATF, the Victoria Islamic Center and Crime Stoppers are offering rewards of up to $10,000 each, the ATF said.

An online GoFundMe.com campaign to rebuild the mosque has raised more than $1 million.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney

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