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Probe Continues into Worship Fires

VAN NUYS Authorities today continued to probe the series of firebombings of houses of worship and collect clues to buttress the case against the man arrested this weekend for igniting them.

At the same time, members of different denominations banded together today to clean up Encino houses of worship that were firebombed over the past two weeks.

A Jewish Iranian immigrant, 40 year-old Farshid Tehrani, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of setting fire to four houses of worship in a two-mile area. He was allegedly apprehended while trying to set fire to a trash can in Westwood, police, fire and city officials told The Los Angeles Times.

Authorities do not believe the suspect has any terrorist ties.

The first incident occurred about 1 a.m. April 26 at the First Presbyterian Church of Encino.

The next two incidents happened Monday: one at 11 a.m. at a Baha'i community center on Genesta Avenue and another about at 10 p.m. at a Ventura storefront synagogue attended by Iranian immigrants.

A fourth alleged attack was foiled by a neighbor who chased away a man who threw a cinder block at the Da'at Torah temple about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night. The only damage was a broken window.

About 10 hours later someone threw what is believed to be a Molotov cocktail into the sanctuary of the Valley Beth Shalom synagogue.

No one was has been hurt in any of the attacks.

Dozens of volunteers helped clean up the Baha'i Center today, including a group of Mormons.

"These people have the right to worship as they please, Mormon elder Brent Arnell told ABC7. "We know only a little bit about what they believe, but they certainly have the right to worship and to be peaceful and to spread their tenets throughout the world. We're here to see that they can do that."

"It's a very heartwarming thing to know that your friends and neighbors, other people in the interfaith community want to reach out and help, and as the Valley Interfaith Council put out in one of their statements, an attack on one is an attack on all," Randolph Dobbs of the Baha'i Center told CBS2.

"Many of the Baha'is that live here in Southern California came to this country seeking freedom of worship. So the fact that this is over now is a big sigh of relief," Dobbs told NBC4.

"I am so thankful that he has not harmed anyone, and I feel that his soul must be really really disturbed, added Farrah Ramchandani of the Baha'i Center.

"Whoever does anything wrong has to face the justice of this city and of the country in which we live. So I hope that justice, I'm sure it will prevail," Darvish Lamy of the Baha'i Center told the TV station.

Los Angeles police today declined to confirm the name of the suspect.

"For reasons stated during last night's press conference with (Assistant Chief Jim) McDonnell, we do not want to taint the investigation that is on-going at this time," said LAPD spokesperson Renee Montoya.

"We can't confirm the name that the L.A. Times put out," said Montoya. "We can confirm that he is still being held and his bail is $750,000."

Detectives reportedly told The Times they were watching Tehrani for more than a day after an informant told them the Encino man could be linked to the arson attacks. Undercover investigators reportedly arrested Tehrani at Glendon and Kinross avenues on suspicion of arson.

The case is to be presented to the district attorney on Monday.

The series of arson attacks stoked fear of burgeoning terrorism, but officials told The Times there was no evidence linking Tehrani to terrorist groups or causes. There was no evidence he had any accomplices.

Tehrani came to the United States from Tehran about 16 years ago and had devoted his life to his family, his sister told The Times.

Public records obtained by The Times show that Tehrani once ran a shop in the heart of the Los Angeles jewelry district called Downtown Jewelry Liquidators. A vendor at the shop said Tehrani sold jewelry there for a while before leaving the business several years ago.

©Copyright 2003, KABC-TV (ABC7, Los Angles, CA, USA)

Following is the URL to the original story. The site may have removed or archived this story. URL: http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/news/051103_nw_firebomb.html


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