Arrest made in San Francisco Chinese consulate arson: FBI

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 06, 2014 2:44 PM
Arrest made in San Francisco Chinese consulate arson: FBI

By Dan Levine and Sarah McBride

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Monday charged a 39-year-old man with arson in connection with a fire at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco last week, but law enforcement authorities are not treating the incident as an act of terrorism.

Yan Feng turned himself into local police on Friday, two days after the Chinese consulate in San Francisco sustained fire and smoke damage, Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent David Johnson said at a news conference on Monday. Feng currently faces two criminal charges, including arson.

Johnson refused to discuss Feng's motives but said the FBI was not approaching the case as an act of terrorism. "We're looking at it purely as a criminal matter," Johnson said.

An FBI spokesman said the agency believes Feng is a U.S. permanent resident but did not disclose his birthplace.

Protests are common outside Chinese diplomatic missions in Western countries but acts of violence are rare.

No one was injured in the incident.

The consulate has said video cameras recorded the arsonist on Wednesday night, carrying two cans of gasoline from a van parked on the street and then setting an embassy gate ablaze.

The gate is around the corner from where most of the public enters the building.

A small group of staff members was in the building when it was attacked, consulate spokesman Wang Chuan said last week. Video cameras recorded the suspect throwing at least one bottle through the glass over the gate, he said.

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The San Francisco Fire Department said it received a report of a fire at 9:33 p.m. PST (0500 GMT), arrived on the scene within two minutes and brought the fire under control within six minutes, and turned over the investigation to the FBI.

Chuan called it a "despicable attack" last week and urged the U.S. to take all necessary measures to protect Chinese personnel. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf last week said the United States takes the incident "very seriously."

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Cynthia Osterman)