Bahai News -- Guardian - Authorities: L.A. Fires Were Arson

Authorities: L.A. Fires Were Arson

Wednesday May 7, 2003 11:19 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Four fires over 11 days at religious buildings were deliberately set, likely by a single arsonist, authorities said Wednesday.

The buildings were a Presbyterian church, a Bahai community center and two synagogues in the Encino area of the San Fernando Valley. No one has been injured.

Fire Chief William Bamattre said he suspects the fires were started by one person.

``We're just horrified ... it just sickens all of us,'' said Jennifer Laing, whose husband is pastor of First Presbyterian Church, scene of the first fire April 26. It caused about $20,000 damage.

A fire at Valley Beth Shalom early Wednesday was extinguished by the facility's sprinkler system. On Monday, a fire at the Bahai Community Center caused at least $10,000 damage, and a blaze set 12 hours later burned the roof of an Iranian synagogue. No damage estimate was available.

A small incendiary device appeared to have been tossed through a window of the Valley Beth Shalom synagogue, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn said at a news conference there.

``You know these senseless acts are more than just crimes,'' Hahn said. ``People have come here because maybe they faced persecution in other countries for practicing their faith. So this is something we can't tolerate here in Los Angeles.''

©Copyright 2003, The Guardian (UK)

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