Islamic boarding school fire in Bromley treated as suspicious by police

(June 09, 2013)

Two people treated for smoke inhalation after fire at Darul Uloom school, amid ongoing fears of reprisals for Woolwich murder

Fire officers survey the fire damaged Bravanese Islamic centre in Muswell Hill

The fire at the Darul Uloom school comes less than a week after a blaze destroyed the Bravanese Islamic centre in Muswell Hill, north London (above).

Photograph: Getty Images

Police are investigating a fire started by intruders at an Islamic boarding school on the south-east outskirts of London as suspicious, amid continuing fears of reprisals after the Woolwich murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.

Two boys were treated for smoke inhalation after fire broke out at the Darul Uloom Islamic school in Chislehurst, Kent, on Saturday night.

Saiyed Mahmood, an adviser to the school, said: "The academic department of the school was set alight just before midnight by intruders." Speaking to reporters outside the school he urged the community to come together to help police trace the culprits.

No arrests have been made as police continue to investigate. A Metropolitan police spokesman said: "It is suspicious."

In a statement the police urged the public to remain calm and not to speculate on the cause of the fire. It said extra police had been deployed to other "potentially vulnerable" buildings in the area. It but did not elaborate.

The emergency services were called to the school just before midnight and the fire was put out within an hour.

The London Fire Brigade said there was heavy smoke throughout the building, but little damage was caused to the structure of the 1980s three-storey boys' school.

All 128 pupils and staff were evacuated on Saturday before four fire crews arrived. By Sunday morning pupils were allowed to return.

Mahmood said: "The parents should rest assured that the students are safe and have been well looked after. Initially the staff extinguished the fire and evacuated the students to safety.

"Two boys suffered smoke inhalation injuries, but they are recovering."

Darul Uloom Islamic school is about six miles (10 kilometers) from Woolwich, where Rigby was killed last month.

An unnamed uncle of a 13-year-old pupil at the school said: "I'm really worried about it, because I've been living here for the past 40 years and we've never had anything like this." Speaking to Sky News, he added: "We are not free at the moment."

The school was established in 1988. Its website says it aims to "prepare Muslim students to be good Muslims and responsible citizens; to embed in the student a sense of discipline; to enable them to grow up to become upright, respectable and worthy citizens of their respective countries."

Mahmood added: "The school is open to anyone who wishes to have a better understanding of what we teach. We are part of the British community and are deeply saddened by the events that have taken place and urge the community to stay firm and united in bringing the people responsible to justice. The community at large have to come together for a safe a peaceful life in Britain." the

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police chief commissioner, said: "These are difficult times for London's communities. The Met is now investigating suspicious fires at two locations within the Islamic community which have happened in the past few days. Fortunately no one has been hurt, but we know that fires can often prove fatal.

"So I want to reassure people that we are using our full range of policing tactics to protect sites that might be vulnerable. In all boroughs across London, there is an increased police presence around locations that might be at risk. We will maintain a 24/7 guard of uniformed officers at sites we consider to be at greatest risk.

"Detectives are working tirelessly to establish whether these fires were started deliberately, and if so, to catch those responsible.

"We should not allow the murder of Lee Rigby to come between Londoners. The unified response we have seen to his death across all communities will triumph over those who seek to divide us."

The fire at the school comes as police continue to investigate a fire that destroyed an Islamic centre in Muswell Hill, north London. Graffiti linked to the far-right group the English Defence League was found on the outside of the building. The far-right group denies involvement.

Faith Matters, a group that monitors anti-Muslim hatred, has reported a sharp increase in incidents, including attacks on 11 mosques, since Rigby was killed.

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