Berlin mosque erupts in flames after suspected arson attack

Berlin mosque erupts in flames after suspected arson attack
Firefighters were deployed to a mosque in Berlin after it erupted in flames in a suspected arson attack. It came just hours after police announced they were launching a probe into a similar mosque assault in another town.

The incident occurred at the Koca Sinan Camii mosque in the German capital shortly after 2am on Sunday. Firefighters were sent to the scene after receiving a call that the building had erupted in flames, according to AFP. The blaze was under control by 3am, and no one was injured.

The fire is being treated as a suspected arson attack by authorities. "According to current findings, a politically motivated offense is assumed...," a police spokesman said, according to German tabloid BZ Berlin. 

Witnesses told the news outlet that three young men in hoodies smashed the front door of the mosque before throwing an object into the building. The men then reportedly fled.

The mosque belongs to the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, one of the largest Islamic organizations in Germany. The mosque addressed the incident on its Facebook page, saying that "an arson attack" had taken place. "Most of the rooms of our mosque are largely unusable," it wrote, calling the incident "unacceptable" and including photos of the damage.

It came just hours after police and prosecutors announced that five people were being sought for attempted murder in connection with a separate suspected arson attack on a mosque in the town of Lauffen. That incident was dealt with by the mosque's imam and did not result in any casualties.

"Several Molotov cocktails were thrown into the mosque through an open window," police and prosecutors said on Saturday, referring to the Lauffen incident. They added that they were treating it as a potentially racist or anti-Islamic attack.

The Lauffen incident was condemned by the leader of Germany's community of ethnic Turks, who called it an "inhuman crime" and an "act of terrorism." Germany is home to some 3 million ethnic Turks.

Recently released data showed that the German government registered at least 950 cases of Muslims and mosques being targeted or attacked in 2017. The data included 33 assaults that led to injuries and around 60 attacks directed against mosques. Some of those cases included the places of worship being desecrated with pig's blood.

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