Bias feared in fire bombings

This sketch released by the New York Police Department shows a suspect wanted in a string of arson attacks Sunday in Queens, N.Y.


NEW YORK — A police security tower rose into the sky Monday, keeping watch over a globally prominent Islamic cultural center that was firebombed amid a handful of attacks being investigated as possibly linked bias crimes.

Police, who had made no arrests, released a sketch of a suspect and a videotape from a surveillance camera at a private house that is used as a Hindu house of worship and was one of the targets. The video shows a car pulling up Sunday night.

Someone suddenly appears, lifts his right arm high and hurls a lit object that strikes the house and explodes into flames.

Earlier Sunday evening, the entrance to the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation also was struck by two Molotov cocktails, the types of bombs usually made of glass bottles filled with flammable liquid and corked with rags. “But we are not afraid,” said the center’s assistant imam, Maan Al-Sahlani. “We were very surprised,” Al-Sahlani said. “This has never happened here before.”

Besides the private house and the Islamic center, the other targets in the suspected arson attacks Sunday night were a corner store and another house. No one was injured in any of the attacks.

With New York Police Department cruisers parked outside the Islamic center and yellow police tape fluttering, Al-Sahlani met on Monday afternoon with a dozen other clerics from the city’s Muslim community. A news conference was planned for today, the imam said. Near a blackened, charred spot on the concrete overhang of the center’s main entrance, the front gates remained wide open to the street on Monday, and anyone could walk in to worship.

“This is America, and we must continue to love one another,” Al-Sahlani, standing in flowing ritual robes in the main prayer hall, said with a smile.