New Haven fire chief says investigators found evidence the fire at the mosque was set intentionally. A criminal investigation involving state and federal authorities has begun.

New Haven mosque blaze appears to be arson, fire officials say. The mosque was in partial use as it underwent reconstruction.
New Haven mosque blaze appears to be arson, fire officials say. The mosque was in partial use as it underwent reconstruction. (AA)

Investigators have found evidence showing a fire at the Diyanet Mosque in New Haven over the weekend was intentionally set.

A criminal investigation involving state and federal authorities has begun, New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said on Monday. One person was inside when flames broke out, but they escaped, Alston said. No one was hurt.

The arson in the US state of Connecticut has caused "large-scale damage," the Religious Services Attache of the Turkish Consulate General in New York confirmed on Monday. The Diyanet Mosque is run by the Turkish government's Directorate of Religious Affairs which also operates mosques abroad. 

The fire occurred around 4 pm local time on Sunday, the seventh day of Ramadan, a holy month during which Muslims fast and pray. 

"We are taking this very serious," said New Haven interim Police Chief Otoniel Reyes. "We are working with our federal and state partners to make sure that there is no underlying issue to the greater community and to the greater religious community."

A reward of up to $2,500 has been offered for any information that leads to the arrest or conviction of the perpetrators, according to officials.

No loss of life

The Turkish consulate's statement said the fire started at the mosque’s entrance and reached the third floor through the exterior side of the building.

The front of the mosque was under construction, but some areas were still being used for worship.

Alston said fire officials were working with the mosque on Monday to help salvage religious artefacts. 

"There was no loss of life or injury in the fire, but it is determined that the mosque has suffered large-scale damage. Tonnes of water used to put out the fire [also] caused damage to the building's unburnt part," the consulate said.

Mosque president Haydar Elevli said area churches have offered his congregation a place to hold services.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the arson "heinous" and said the perpetrators should be identified and "sentenced swiftly."

The minister also called for a united stance against anti-muslim sentiment and racism.

Democratic Governor Ned Lamont visited the mosque and said he finds "an attack like this especially hurtful and hateful when you attack an institution for what people believe."

Lamont said the state will do everything it can to ensure that members of the mosque can return to worship "right here in this place."

Source: AA