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Published: Saturday, 8/18/2012

$375,000 in donations follow mosque blaze

BLADE STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Donations from around the world have helped Muslims in Joplin, Mo., raise about $375,000 to rebuild a mosque destroyed in a fire, mosque officials said this week.

Members of the local Muslim community suspect the fire was a hate crime. Fire officials have not determined what started the predawn blaze at the Islamic Center of Joplin on Aug. 6. No one was injured.

The same mosque had a minor roof fire on July 4.

"We do think it is very suspicious," said Kimberly Kester, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Joplin.

Thousands of people from at least 23 countries sent donations, said Ms. Kester. A Muslim community Web site said at least $375,000 was donated, far exceeding the $250,000 goal. She said the extra money would be used for safety features and a playground.

Many donations came from non-Muslims, she said.

"Non-Muslims just want to help. They realized that what happened is wrong," Ms. Kester said.

The FBI circulated an enhanced photo on Thursday of an unidentified man who is a suspect in the July 4 fire.



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