Officials examine mosque burglary week before fire

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Jan. 31, 2017 at 10:57 p.m.
Updated Feb. 1, 2017 at 6:47 a.m.

Walid Taha, mosque member, takes a moment to look at what remains of the main hall in the Victoria Islamic Center. This was the first time Taha and other members were able to walk the building since the fire.

Walid Taha, mosque member, takes a moment to look at what remains of the main hall in the Victoria Islamic Center. This was the first time Taha and other members were able to walk the building since the fire.   Ana Ramirez for The Victoria Advocate

Investigators are trying to determine whether a break-in at the Victoria Islamic Center is connected to the fire that destroyed it days later.

"We're looking at every single possible angle we can come up with," Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler said Tuesday.

Investigators have canvassed the area and asked local businesses to provide security camera footage of the night.

Someone used a tool to pry open the back double doors of the Victoria Islamic Center, 201 E. Airline Road, on Jan. 22. That person then made off with a gold Sony Laptop, a black iPad 2, three iPhone 7 Pluses and a gold Samsung Tablet. The items were valued at $3,600, according to a police report.

The center burned down during the early morning hours Saturday.

Some worry it could be arson because of the recent anti-immigrant and anti- Muslim rhetoric across the country.

The items that were reported missing belonged to the mosque, mostly to the imam. Some were personal items while others were used to educate the children, Victoria Islamic Center Board Member Abe Ajrami said.

"Officially, we don't know if there's a connection between the two. It's better to wait until the official press conference provided by the investigation team," Ajrami said.

While the adult members of the Victoria Islamic Center are adjusting to the loss of their place of worship thanks in part to the outpouring of support from around the world, the children who attended are not doing as well, Ajrami said.

"Every Friday, we'd come here and eat. ... In the back, they'd play and run around," he said. "We're looking really at getting professional counseling service and having them meet with the kids."

For complete coverage of the fire visit our Special Projects page at www.victoriaadvocate.com/mosquefire.


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