CAUGHT ON CCTV: SHADOWY FIGURE SNEAKING INTO TAHFIZ SCHOOL REIGNITES SUSPICIONS

INVESTIGATIONS into Thursday’s tahfiz school fire may veer towards the possibility of foul play.

This follows a new lead which officials discovered yesterday during the course of investigations into the 5am blaze at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school, which left 23 dead.

Sources close to the parallel investigations being carried out by police and Fire and Rescue Department said they were convinced yesterday that the fire was not an accident after reviewing closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage obtained nearby.

A high-ranking source confirmed yesterday that authorities were looking into the possibility that this was an arson case.

“From an initial probe, we suspected that the fire involved elements of foul play. This theory was backed by a new lead after authorities reviewed CCTV recordings earlier today (yesterday).”

Another source with knowledge of the ongoing probe, meanwhile told the New Straits Times that investigators found traces of petrol in front of the door to the dormitory, where the victims had been trapped.

This, was also where investigators on Thursday found two cylinders which did not belong to the school, after the fire had been put out.

The fuel, the source said could have been the accelerant in the fire.

A warden of the school who survived the fire, Mohd Arif Mawardi, had said that during routine checks before bedtime at 11pm on Wednesday night, he did not see the gas cylinders on the floor .

Meanwhile, it is understood that a student of the school had been detained to facilitate investigations.

Sources said the student, believed to have left the school several hours before the incident, was taken by police to the scene yesterday.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, yesterday however said the student was not considered a suspect but was merely assisting investigations.

Another source told the NST that the incident could have possibly been motivated by revenge.

“There was information that there had been a fight between students of the religious school recently. We can’t say for sure yet, or connect it to the fire.”

A source said CCTV cameras at the Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia office beside the school had also captured what could be footage of a possible intrusion at the school about two hours before the blaze.

“The footage showed that a person, who looked like he was in his teens, sneaking into the tahfiz school at about 3am.”

Wangsa Maju police chief Superintendent Roy Suhaimi Sarif confirmed that police had obtained footage from more than 15 CCTV cameras owned by PPIM, and had them sent for analysis.

When asked about the information that a fight between students was being investigated as a possible motive, Roy said police were investigating all angles and would record statements from all students and teachers before drawing any conclusions.

“We cannot jump to conclusions as the investigation is ongoing. Police will record statements from all necessary parties to shed more light into the case.

“We do not know yet if a fight between students was the motive.

“The fight could have taken place a long time ago and not related to this incident,” he said.

Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman had said on Thursday that short circuit had been ruled out as a cause of the incident.

“Investigations showed the fire was not caused by a short circuit. Forensic findings and the Energy Commission confirmed that the electricity circuit and the school building’s main switch were in good condition.

“We found that the fire had spread quickly, in a strange and unusual way.

“Usually, if the cause is a short circuit, the main fuse box would ‘kick’ and it would take at least 30 minutes for the fire to spread.

“Based on information from the victims who were saved, the fire also started from outside the door of the hostel, trapping them.

“In addition, there were two gas cylinders there, which could have contributed to the fire and causing it to spread fast,” he had said.

Khirudin had said the department believed there were other “elements” from outside the building which caused the fire and a thorough investigation was being carried out.

– NST

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