Keramat tahfiz fire: Investigations now focused on possibility of foul play as new lead emerges
Investigations into Thursday’s tahfiz school fire is now focused on the possibility of foul play. NST’s Hariz Mohd, Tasnim Lokman and Teoh Pei Ying report:
This follows a new lead which officials discovered yesterday during the course of investigations into the 5am blaze at Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school which saw 23 souls perish.
Sources close to parallel investigations being carried out by police and Fire and Rescue Department said they were more convinced today that the fire was not an accident after reviewing closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage obtained from premises near the scene.
A high-ranking source in one of the agencies, when approached today, confirmed that authorities were now 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 further backed by a new lead after authorities reviewed CCTV recordings earlier today,” said the source.
The officer spoke to NST on condition of anonymity, as officials had been told not to reveal the latest development yet.
Meanwhile, it is understood that a student of the school had been arrested to facilitate investigations.
Sources said the student, who fled the school several hours before the incident, was taken by police to the scene yesterday to assist in collecting evidence.
Another source told the New Straits Times 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, but this could have a connection with the fire yesterday.”
A source said CCTV cameras at Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia (PPIM) office located 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, snuck into the tahfiz school about 3am.”
Meanwhile, Wangsa Maju police chief Superintendent Roy Suhaimi Sarif confirmed that police have obtained footage from more than 15 CCTV cameras owned by PPIM, and had them sent for analysis.
However, he declined to confirm if the footage had shown an intruder sneaking into the school.
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 this 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 at all,” he said.
It was reported that authorities were looking into criminal or suspicious elements after gas cylinders which did not belong to the school were found in the building.
The two cylinders were found on the second floor, just outside the stairway leading to the student’s dormitory, after rescuers had put out the fire.
A warden at the tahfiz who survived the fire, Mohd Arif Mawardi, claimed that before bedtime on Wednesday night at about 11pm, he did not see the gas cylinders on the floor during routine checks.
Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman had yesterday said that short circuit had been ruled out as a possible cause of the incident.
“Investigations into the fire at the Tahfiz 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 was 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 (witnesses), the fire also started from outside the door of the hostel, trapping them in. In addition, there were two gas canisters 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 is being carried out.