Malaysia religious school fire motivated by revenge, seven teenagers arrested

The damaged Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz school building in Keramat. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - The deadly fire that broke out at a religious school on Thursday was motivated by revenge, Malaysian police revealed on Saturday (Sept 16).

Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh said seven individuals aged between 11 and 18 have been arrested over the blaze at Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school that killed 23 people.

"The motive was to cause a fire, not to kill. It was also prompted by mocking," Datuk Amar told reporters, declining to elaborate further.

He said the suspects were arrested between 6pm on Friday and 2.30am on Saturday.

"We have secured a seven-day remand against the suspects. Checks by us also found that six of them tested positive for ganja. It was likely that they were under the influence when they allegedly committed the offence," he said, adding that two of the suspects have past records involving rioting and vehicle theft.

Police have also seized five T-shirts and pants belonging to the suspects to undergo a hydrocarbon test. According to a report by the New Straits Times citing unnamed sources, the suspects had used cooking gas and petrol to start the blaze.

On Thursday, 21 young students and two wardens trapped behind barred windows were killed in the pre-dawn blaze that swept the top floor of the three-storey building in Kuala Lumpur.

The bodies were found piled up in the school dormitory and charred beyond recognition. The students' escape was hampered by window grilles.

It was also revealed that the school did not have an occupancy permit from the Fire and Rescue Department even though it has been operating for a year.

The horrific blaze has also sparked outrage and ignited calls for better regulation of such schools.

On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said a special task force will look into the tragedy and previous recommendations made by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) set up to probe fire incidents involving religious schools.

Dr Ahmad Zahid, who chairs the task force, said it would comprise ministers including heads of departments from relevant safety, education and enforcement agencies.

Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association chairman Nadzim Johan had said earlier that a group of 10 people had been spotted loitering "suspiciously" in front of the school on Wednesday night. He said they were captured on close-circuit television cameras at the association's office, which is located next to the school.

Meanwhile, the school's management has set up a donation box in front of the school. Many people were seen donating money as they passed by the site.

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