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Intruders Set Muslim Restaurant Owner on Fire


The Indianapolis Star, Mar. 26, 2003

"Investigators are trying to determine who set fire to a Southeastside restaurant, badly burning its owner and causing more than $150,000 in damage. The owner of the Eastern Kitchen Buffet, Abdullah Naderi, 37, who is from Afghanistan, was in the business when the fire broke out about 10:15 p.m. Monday in a recently constructed strip mall at 6815 S. Emerson Ave. Franklin Township Fire Chief Paul Bailey said Naderi fled to a still-open coffee shop elsewhere in the mall. 'He gave some information, which we're not able to release right now,' Bailey said. Naderi suffered second- and third-degree burns on 60 percent of his body and was taken to Wishard Memorial Hospital in critical condition, said Marion County Sheriff's Sgt. Claire Stipe, whose department is also investigating the fire. Inside the restaurant, investigators found three 21/2-gallon gasoline cans, a pry bar, rope, aerosol cans and a disposable lighter."
"Bailey said Naderi told officials he was cleaning up in a kitchen area when two people burst in and set him on fire. He said investigators are trying to gather evidence at the scene to confirm Naderi's account. Some statements to firefighters were somewhat contradictory. Any evidence collected will go to the Marion County Crime Lab. Bailey said investigators have been unable to confirm reports of people loitering by the restaurant shortly before the fire. Asked if the arson might have been a hate crime motivated by Naderi's nationality or the restaurant's cuisine, Bailey said investigators hadn't ruled out the possibility but that other motives remain under investigation. Naderi's restaurant was the first business to open in the strip mall. According to the Marion County Health Department, he obtained his restaurant license Feb. 14. Several other tenants had since moved in. Calls to Naderi's home weren't returned."
"Bailey estimated damage to the building at $150,000 to $200,000, not including smoke damage to neighboring businesses. Reports on bias crimes are kept by Indiana State Police. In 2002, Indianapolis police investigated 13 race-related incidents, as well as three related to ethnicity and one to religion. The Marion County Sheriff's Department investigated one racial complaint and one pertaining to religion. Investigators ask anyone with information on the fire to call 1-317-231-8477 or 1-317-780-1700, Ext. 19."