Suspect arrested in arson attack that destroyed historic Minnesota synagogue

A suspect has been arrested in an arson attack that almost completely destroyed a Duluth, Minnesota synagogue last week.

City officials announced Sunday that Matthew James Amiot, 36, was arrested last Friday and is being held on charges of first-degree arson, The Duluth News-Tribune reported.

The paper states that the investigation into the fire involved 20 officials from the Duluth police and fire departments, as well as the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which was called in because of the suspicion that the arson was a religiously-motivated hate crime.

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The historic Adas Israel Synagogue caught fire in the early morning hours of September 9, and despite efforts by firefighters, was all but destroyed. An assistant fire chief said the building was “almost a complete loss.” The only injury was a firefighter lightly hurt by falling debris. Several Torah scrolls were recovered intact from the synagogue’s basement.

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Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, commented, “We became aware of the arrest heading into Shabbat and will continue working with the Duluth Police Department to inform the Jewish community of the nature of this arrest as the investigation continues.”

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Writer Sarah Rose, a descendant of one of the founders of Adas Israel, said arson would be “our worst nightmare.”

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