African-American church in South Carolina catches fire: newspaper

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 30, 2015 11:35 PM

(Reuters) - An African-American church in South Carolina that was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan 20 years ago caught fire on Tuesday, the local Post and Courier newspaper reported.

The fire at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in the city of Greeleyville comes amid a rash of fires that have erupted at black churches across the U.S. south, at least two of which have already been declared arsons by fire investigators.

It also comes roughly two weeks after a white gunman opened fire inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston some 65 miles (105 km) away.

Mark Keel, chief of the State Law Enforcement Division, told the newspaper that the blaze was still burning on Tuesday night. He said the cause of the fire could not be determined until the flames were out.

He told the newspaper that while lightning from a recent storm system in the area may have sparked the blaze, he was troubled by the recent spate of church fires in the region.

"Certainly, I think we all are concerned about those things," he told the newspaper.

The FBI said on Monday they were investigating a spate of fires at predominantly black churches across the southern United States, although so far no link between the incidents has been established.

Tuesday's fire would be at least the seventh blaze since the shooting, an attack that stoked an ongoing national outcry over race relations and a renewed civil rights movement following several high-profile police killings of unarmed African-American men over the past year.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Paul Tait)