This past March, three separate Alabama mosques were burglarized. Investigators quickly determined that these three events were likely carried out by the same suspect. Now, new evidence appears to link these incidents with a number of similar burglaries throughout the country.
On March 10, two Alabama mosques, one in Gadsden and the other in Anniston, were targeted by a burglar. In both instances, there was no sign of vandalism or destruction of property that might have indicated that prejudice played a role. In fact, the only thing the burglar stole was cash.
“There is no evidence that these crimes are hate crime related,” a representative from the Gadsden Police said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Four days later, a third burglary occurred at a mosque in Tuscaloosa. Again, there was no destruction or vandalism, and cash from the donation box was stolen. But unlike the two earlier incidents, a handwritten Quran was also stolen, according to the Gadsden Times.
In all three cases, security footage shows a white man with short cropped hair driving a pickup truck. These images were quickly linked to a similar crime in Blacksburg, Virginia, which occurred on Feb 25 of this year.
Now, investigators in Arizona are also investigating whether or not their own string of Mosque thefts might have been committed by the same man.
The modus operandi seem to match: two separate mosques were targeted on the same day, March 30th. At the Islamic Center of East Valley in Chandler, Arizona, only money was stolen. At the second mosque in Maricopa, it remains unclear what, if anything, was taken by the suspect.
Since the election of Donald Trump, tension within Muslim communities has been high, leading many to fear this crime might have had political undertones.
“I am hoping and praying this is a conventional crime and nothing to do with harassment of the mosques, but I am prepared for either of them,” Ashfaq Taufique, leader of the Birmingham Islamic Center, said in an interview with the Associated Press.
But police insist that no hate crime occurred. Instead, they are portraying the crime as a simple theft. After all, there are two million home burglaries reported each year in the United States, and churches and retail stores are common targets for thieves as well.
Despite this latest discovery in the case, Alabama police still have few leads as to the identity of the Mosque burglar. For now, investigators in the affected community will continue to search for clues and remain in contact with their colleagues around the country, according to Gadsden Police Sgt. John Hallman’s comments to the Gadsden Times.
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