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Feb 11,2008
Arrests made in Tenn. mosque fire
by UPI

COLUMBIA, Tenn. - Three men were arrested Sunday on arson charges in connection with a fire that destroyed a mosque in Tennessee, authorities said.

The fire at the Islamic Center of Columbia is being investigated as a hate crime and arson, The (Columbia, Tenn.) Daily Herald reported Sunday.

Eric Baker, 31, Michael Golden, 22, and Jonathan Stone, 18, are charged with arson, the newspaper reported. Jim Cavanaugh, a special agent with the federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agency, said federal charges may be pending in the case.

"The motive was painted on the wall," Cavanaugh said.

A swastika and the phrases "white power" and "we run the country" were visible on the mosque's exterior.

Rasmi Awad, a member of the mosque, told the newspaper about four or five families used the center for prayer and worship services every Friday.

"It's unfortunate," Awad said. "Only a few of us were left in the area to worship. People would move, but we were still here. I don't know where we'll go now."

© 2008 United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

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