A Molotov cocktail was thrown at a mosque in Central Valley, east of the San Francisco Bay Area, over the weekend and the incident is now being investigated by San Joaquin County sheriff's officials as a hate crime, reports said Sunday. The Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, was thrown at the Tracy Islamic Center on Saturday morning, leading to a fire.
The fire led to minor damages worth about $1,000. Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, according to Los Angeles Times that weatherstripping at the mosque’s door helped prevent the flammable liquid from entering into the mosque and beginning a fire there. The attack took place when people were just beginning to arrive for their morning prayers. Authorities who reached the site could not immediately find any camera footage that might have captured the incident.
"The community is hurt," Elkarra said, according to LA Times, adding: "Parents are having to explain to their kids what happened. They're trying to remain hopeful in the current climate."
FBI officials told mosque administration that the suspects might have jumped a fence before throwing the bottle, Saifi Raniwala, a trustee at the center, reportedly said. Raniwala added that the center is now open for prayers and the mosque is installing a security system.
"We are going to continue to do the prayers at the regular time," Raniwala said, according to LA Times, adding: "But we are going to be more vigilant, obviously, for the safety of the physical structure and the people who attend the services."
Most recently, a mosque in Coachella in Southern California was attacked, which culminated in the arrest of one person. Just days after the Dec. 11 incident, two mosques in Los Angeles were vandalized and the cases were also being investigated as hate crimes.
The latest series of attacks against Muslim institutions come on the heels of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, by Islamic extremists. In November, multiple attacks in and around Paris, claimed by the Islamic State group, killed 130 people and injured several others. Earlier this month, a couple opened fire at a social service center in San Bernardino during an event, killing 14 people. The FBI is trying to determine the motive behind the attack while the assault has led to a debate in the country over visa and immigration procedures.