Blumenthal tours burnt down mosque, pledges more security funding

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NEW HAVEN -

Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Friday toured a New Haven mosque that was intentionally burned, and the senator is pledging more federal security money for religious centers across the state.

Blumenthal says fires like the arson at Diyanet Mosque can be prevented and that the feds need to do more to keep it from happening again.

"I'm going to take this picture with me, back to Washington, to convince my colleagues about the need for more investment and resources to make places of worship truly secure and safe,” said Blumenthal.

The senator wants to double the Nonprofit Security Grant Program budget. Last year, it sent $268,000 to Connecticut mosques, churches and synagogues. FEMA also provides training for explosives and active shooter situations.

MORE: People of all faiths attend vigil for burned mosque
MORE: Fire officials: New Haven mosque fire intentionally set 

"With churches and houses of worship, they're a target for intentional fire-setting,” says New Haven Fire Chief John Alston. “And so back in 1996, there was an act -- there was a rash of church fires -- and there was a congressional act that was established."

So far, the community has raised more than $150,000 for the mosque to rebuild.

"But in the meantime, the damage that it's done to this community -- their sense of safety -- is something that's probably going to take years to repair,” says New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

Investigators remain tight-lipped as to whether the arson was a hate crime or domestic terrorism. But if it was domestic terrorism, that would be a federal crime and could mean more severe penalties.

"We're not ruling out any motive,” says New Haven Police Chief Tony Reyes. “We are turning every stone, but at this point, we're not going to discuss what the direction of the investigation is."

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