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Arson is Suspected in Blaze at Arab Organization’s Offices

The fire department suspects arson in a blaze that raged through two adjoining buildings containing the local offices of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and other tenants here Friday night.

The fire, officially termed “suspicious,” marked the third time in four months that offices of the committee have been the target of apparently wilful violence. The most serious incident occurred on October II when a bomb exploded at the Santa Ana, California, office, killing Alex Odeh, 41, the committee’s regional director.

Only the day before he had appeared on a television interview program where he denied that the Palestine Liberation Organization and its chief, Yasir Arafat, were responsible for the Achille Lauro hijacking. An explosion ripped the committee’s office in Boston last August 16, injuring a policeman.

There were no injuries in Friday night’s fire here but damage to the committee’s offices alone are estimated at $450,000. Ray Alford, a spokesman for the fire department, told reporters, “There’s too much there for it to have been accidental but not enough to declare it arson so we are classifying it at the present time as suspicious.”

James Zogby, former executive director of the committee, said the fire was not accidental. “We’ve seen too many for it not to be a pattern. At this point its too many times,” he said.

The FBI reportedly suspects Jewish Defense League involvement in the fatal Santa Ana bombing but so far no one has been charged and no arrests have been made. JDL national chairman Irving Rubin, who denied responsibility for the bombing, also denied the JDL was involved in the fire here though the authorities have not suggested it was.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles police bomb squad safely disarmed a primed explosive device found on the steps of the Masjid al-Mumin Mosque near downtown Los Angeles last Thursday. It was discovered by congregants arriving for worship. No group has taken credit for the attempt and none has been accused so far.

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