SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A fire that tore through part of a Southern California mosque just before a prayer service on Friday appears to have been arson, the authorities said.
Congregants at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley had started arriving for 1 p.m. prayers when they heard a “loud boom” shortly after noon, Reymundo Nour, the mosque’s acting imam, said.
Soon, the front of the mosque erupted into flames. More than a dozen firefighters arrived within minutes and contained the fire to the lobby, although there was smoke damage throughout the building, officials said. No one was injured.
Congregants reported what sounded like a “fire bomb,” said Mr. Nour, who was not present at the time but heard from several people who had been there. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said Friday that it “believes this is an intentional act,” and that investigators from the F.B.I.and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were participating in the investigation.
Mr. Nour said the fire was disconcerting for him and the congregants at the mosque in Coachella near Palm Springs, almost 80 miles from San Bernardino, where 14 people were killed and 22 injured during an attack last week.