Police probe fire at Mosque

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The Independent Online

Police and fire officers were investigating a suspicious blaze at a mosque today.

Firefighters were called to the Pakistan Association Mosque and Community Centre in Leith, Edinburgh, early on Wednesday morning after a member of the public saw smoke coming from the building.

Officers confirmed they were treating the fire as suspicious and forensic experts were expected to begin their investigation this morning.

The blaze damaged part of the prayer area of the mosque, situated on the ground floor of the building on the corner of East London Street and Annandale Street.

Muhammed Aslam, chairman of the Edinburgh and East of Scotland Pakistan Association, said it appeared a basement door had been forced open.

"It's obviously quite shocking and saddening. I was there myself last night when the fire brigade and police came," he said.

"There's quite a bit of damage, mainly to the ground floor, to the prayer area of the mosque.

"We are having a meeting there at 10.30am, and we hope to establish what happened, however it seems to have been caused deliberately."

Mr Aslam described relations with the local community as "very good".

He added that a union flag seen flowing from one of the first floor windows this morning belonged to the association and appeared to have become dislodged from a wall inside the building during the blaze.

He added: "Generally everything is fine and we haven't received any threats or suspicious calls."

He said the mosque was used by around 250­300 people for Friday prayers but the hall above was in constant use for activities such as after school classes for around 80 children.

Inspector Dave Sturrock of Lothian and Borders police said the fire was being treated as suspicious.

He added: "A passer­by noticed smoke coming from one of the windows (of the building) and notified the fire brigade and police. They attended and a small blaze was extinguished.

"Circumstances indicate the fire is suspicious and inquiries are continuing."

He would not speculate if the fire might be related to the recent terrorist attacks in America.

The inspector said forensics experts would be examining the scene today.

Andrew Ogden, 23, whose flat overlooks the centre, said he became aware of the blaze at around 1.30am.

The sales administrator said: "There were four fire engines and a couple of police. You couldn't see flames but we saw smoke coming out of the vents and some of the windows.

"When they opened the side doors smoke came pouring out of there too."

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