Sept. 16 (UPI) — Malaysian authorities said Saturday they have arrested seven individuals connected to a school fire that killed 23, most of whom were children trapped in the building.
Seven suspects, all between the ages of 11 and 18, were arrested early Saturday near Kuala Lumpur in connection with the fire at Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school, which claimed the lives of 21 children and two teachers on Thursday.
Police say the blaze likely started as an argument between students at the school and the youths suspected to have been involved in the fire.
“They comprised school leavers and dropouts living around Datuk Keramat area,” Kuala Lumpur Police chief Datuk Amar Singh Ishar Singh told reporters.
Police say their investigation has thus far suggested the teens took gas cylinders to the second floor of the school and, using some type of accelerant — possibly gasoline — sought to cause the fire to spread faster.
Nearby residents said they could hear screams and saw children attempting to kick open grills over the windows but were unable to help them. By the time fire fighters got to the building, it was already 90 percent enflamed, according to one fire official.
Although an electrical short circuit was thought to possibly be at fault for the fire, police said they believe the accused teenagers set the school on fire in retribution for being mocked.
After arresting the seven teens, police said they seized shirts, pants, helmets and motorcycles from them, with the clothing sent for chemical analysis. Six of the teens also tested positive for drugs and two have previous criminal records.