(GREELEYVILLE, S.C.) — A historically black church in South Carolina with a history of being targeted caught fire Tuesday night and investigators were trying to determine the cause, according to officials and reports.
Officials said investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were on scene at Mt. Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, but the cause was not clear. State and federal authorities are involved with the investigation.
The church was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995 and President Clinton spoke at the dedication of the newly rebuilt church the next year.
The fire comes amid heightened fears about church burnings in the wake of the massacre of nine people at the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Sources familiar with the investiation say a preliminary assessment so far does not point to a criminal act as the cause of the fire. A more conclusive assessment and analysis will be provided once forensic examiners are able to complete their investigation.
But as the fire continued to smolder overnight, the cause remained a mystery. It was unclear if there were injuries or how much damage was done.
On Tuesday, federal officials said a string of five church fires in the South appeared not to be racially motivated or related, although some were deemed to be arson.
The ATF, which issued the statement, said that the investigation was in the preliminary stages.
“We are in the early stages of these investigations, but at this time we have no reason to believe these fires are racially motivated or related,” the statement said of the fires, which have occurred in the past nine days.
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