The Slatest

Graffiti Referencing New Zealand Attack Found Near Fire at California Mosque

People stand outside the mosque, next to many flowers placed in tribute to the victims of the March 15 attacks.
People pause next to flowers and tributes outside Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 24. Carl Court/Getty Images

A fire at a mosque in Escondido, California, is being investigated as a possible hate crime after graffiti referencing the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, was found in the building’s parking lot, according to the Associated Press.

While police said Sunday that the graffiti had referenced the mass shooting, they did not elaborate as to what exactly it said. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, an accelerant had been used when starting the fire. Authorities confirmed in a statement Sunday that they considered the attack to be an arson attempt.

No one was hurt in the fire, and worshippers at the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque were able to extinguish the fire before it did major damage to the building. Seven people were inside the mosque at the time the fire was set early Sunday.

According to the police statement, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting local authorities in investigating the fire. The investigators have not yet identified a suspect.

The shootings at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch left 50 people dead. The suspect in the attack penned a manifesto laying out a set of extremist white supremacist beliefs and making it clear that his motivation was to kill Muslim immigrants.

While the Escondido fire appears to be one of the first attempted hate crimes in the U.S. to explicitly reference the New Zealand shooting, a nonprofit in the U.K. has reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes have spiked dramatically—by 600 percent—since the shooting. According to the Guardian, the group learned of 95 incidents between March 15 and March 21, most of which referenced the New Zealand attack. In the U.S., anti-Muslim hate crimes have continued to rise in recent years, according to a report released last year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

On Sunday evening, according to the Washington Post, several hundred people attended an interfaith vigil near the Escondido mosque.