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Police Suspect Arson in Mosque Fire

Police are investigating potential arson in a fire that destroyed scores of housing units inside a large mosque complex in Sihanoukville Monday night.

The fire at Al Muhagirin mosque, in Prey Nup district, which also serves as a religious school to about 500 students, began around 10 pm Monday, Or Chrov commune police chief Bay Non said.

The blaze destroyed 53 of 56 wooden structures used to house the mosque's students, but no one was injured, Bay Non said.

Police believe the fire was started on purpose, following the firing of some local teachers in favor of teachers from other provinces by the Cham director of the school, Zay Nuttin.

Zay Nuttin, 39, said he also suspected someone set the fire on purpose, but he said teachers had left the mosque of their own volition.

The mosque typically houses 350 male students and 150 female students, aged between 15 and 24, but Monday's fire occurred when most of the students were on holiday, visiting family in other provinces, Zay Nuttin said.

The mosque and its school, which teaches the Sunni denomination of Islam, were built in January 2001, through funding by donations from Malaysia, and the complex is one of the largest in the country, Zay Nuttin said.