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Man confesses to Joplin mosque fire

Kellie Kotraba/ColumbiaFAVS
The Islamic Society of Joplin, the city's only mosque, was destroyed in a fire on Aug. 6, 2013.

More than one year after the Islamic Society of Joplin was burned to the ground, an arrested man has confessed to setting the fire.

“The arrest will not bring the mosque back, but at least it will stop him from doing things like this again,” said Lahmuddin Lahmuddin, the mosques imam, on hearing the news.

Jedediah Stout, 30, was originally arrested in connection with two arson attempts at Joplin’s Planned Parenthood clinic that happened earlier this month. He was charged Fridaywith both of those arson attempts.

Then, in a motion filed Monday, Reuters reports, federal prosecutors said Stout had confessed to both mosque fires and should remain detained. As of Tuesday, he is still in custody.

The mosque was destroyed in the early morning hours of Aug. 6, 2012. It was the second fire of the summer; on July 4, someone had set fire to the roof, but it was extinguished before too much damage was done.

Until Stout’s arrest and confession, the two fires had not been officially connected – the second fire hadn’t even been confirmed as arson.

The Joplin Globe reports that video footage from the July fire at the mosque showed a man throwing “an incendiary device” onto the roof; footage from the Planned Parenthood Clinic showed a man throwing a backpack onto the roof.

A news release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomed the arrest of the suspect and thanked law enforcement officials for their work in this case.

“We offer special thanks to the interfaith community in Joplin and to Americans of all faiths who offered financial support following the destruction of the mosque,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in the release.

In the days and months following the fire, money poured in from all over the country in an online campaign, helping the mosque move forward to its uncertain future.

At home in Joplin, different faith groups expressed their support by allowing the Muslim community to use their houses of worship. One group sent cards of support.

The Muslim community has been renting out a few spaces in a strip mall to use for prayers and community activities, with plans to rebuild soon. But Lahmuddin said their building plans have been delayed; they need to revisit some of their designs before moving forward on the new mosque.

For more on houses of worship dealing with violence, check out this series: "From Bullets to Burnings: Religion and Violence in America."

Check out ColumbiaFaith&Values.com.

Kellie Moore left KBIA in the spring of 2014.
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