The FBI has been called in to investigate fires at three African American churches in Louisiana over the past fortnight.
Police say that there is a “clear pattern’ linking the incidents in St Landry Parish, 63 miles east of the state capital, Baton Rouge.
“We’re very cognisant that there’s a problem, and there’s no coincidence that there are three fires,”
said H. “Butch” Browning, Louisiana’s state fire marshal.
The first fire took place on March 26, with two more taking place over the past week.
All the fires were started in the middle of the night when the churches were empty.
Police are also investigating whether the incidents are linked to another fire at a predominantly black church in Caddo Parish, just under 200 miles north of St Landry.
Mr Browning said all three churches are now being treated as crime scenes.
“Investigating a fire is a very lengthy process,” he added. “It’s one of the most complicated and unconventional crime scenes you’ll ever enter because most of the evidence is burned away.”
Mr Browning declined to speculate on a motive for the fires.
“There certainly is a commonality, and whether that leads to a person or persons or groups, we just don’t know.”
Police have stepped up security at other churches nearby, increasing patrols in an attempt to provide reassurance to pastors and their congregations.
Sporadic attacks on black churches have taken place in southern states for decades.
Main image copyright: Reuters/social media
Written By: David Millward
First Published 07.04.19: