Man arrested for starting fires in two mosques

A man was arrested and charged with arson after setting fire to two mosques in Minneapolis.

Jackie Rahm Little, who authorities said also goes by the name Joel Arthur Tueting, was apprehended by police and agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) on Saturday night.

Authorities suspect Little, 36, was involved in lighting fires in two Minneapolis, Minnesota mosques on April 23 and April 24.

The first fire was started in a bathroom at the Masjid Omar Islamic Center, which is located inside the Somali Mall building. According to the affidavit, Little entered a second-floor bathroom in the building, where he ignited a cardboard box.

An employee at the Islamic Center noticed the arsonist and chased him out of the bathroom. The fire was extinguished, but investigators were able to recover the burnt cardboard and part of a melted plastic gas canister.

The second arson attempt happened a day later at the Masjid Al Rahma, located in a building known as the Mercy Islamic Center only blocks away from the Somali Mall.

Little was not identified at the mosque, but he was caught on security cameras taking the bus to the building and filling another plastic canister with fuel at a gas station only a half mile away.

Security guards at the Mercy Islamic Center noticed the fire around 7.00pm. They called 911 and began evacuating the building, including a number of children from a private daycare that leases the center’s first floor.

The fire caused an estimated tens of thousands of dollars to the mosque, according to investigators.

‘Houses of worship should be safe places,’ Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said after the arrest was announced. ‘Setting fire to a sacred facility, where families and children gather, is incredibly inhumane. And this level of blatant hatred will not be tolerated in our great city.’

Investigators were able to identify Little by connecting him to a series of crimes, including vandalism and harassment, against Muslim targets across the Twin Cities that began at the end of December 2022.

According to investigators, Little spray painted the number ‘500’ on the door to a Somali-American police officer’s car, at the entrance to the Somali Mall building, and on the offices of an unnamed US member of congress.

Investigators are currently unsure what the number ‘500’ refers to.

On Monday, Minnesota Rep Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American Democrat who represents Minneapolis, confirmed her office was targeted.

‘Mr Little is not only responsible for multiple arson attacks against mosques in my district and the vandalism of a Somali officer’s police vehicle, but also targeted my own office with vandalism on at least one occasion,’ she stated.

She continued: ‘We are witnessing an epidemic of hate against the Muslim community and other religious minorities in Minnesota and globally right now. This campaign of terror is designed to keep us fearful and divided.’

According to the affidavit, Little also sent Rep Omar’s office a photo of himself urinating on a Quran that was submerged in a toilet.

Investigators also interviewed Little’s mother, whose name was redacted in the affidavit. She said her son ‘has had a fascination with fire from a young age,’ and that she ‘strongly suspected’ he was involved in other unsolved arsons over the years.

She also said that Little was ‘extensively harassing a Muslim female’ when he was in transitional housing. His target managed to get his mother’s phone number and sent her reports her son’s behavior – including a photo of a Quran in a toilet.

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