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Arson Suspect Arrested Following Fire at North Dakota Somali Restaurant

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The restaurant previously was hit with vandalism.

Yelp/Shannon O.

A Minnesota man has been arrested and charged with arson following a recent fire at a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks, N.D., reports the Associated Press. The December 7 blaze caused $90,000 worth of damage to Juba Coffee & Restaurant, which had been vandalized three days earlier.

In the prior incident, vandals reportedly spray painted "Nazi-like symbols" and the words "go home" on the outside of the building. Despite the lack of subtlety in the vandalism, Grand Forks Police Lieutenant Derik Zimmel told the AP "there are a lot of different ways the graffiti can be interpreted." Zimmel said motivation for the arson wouldn't be determined until police spoke to the accused, 25-year-old Matthew Gust. It's not yet clear if there's any connection between the vandalism and fire, and the FBI is investigating.

Gust threw a 40-ounce beer bottle filled with gasoline through the window of the restaurant, according to the Grand Forks Herald, and he faces 10 years in prison. No one was hurt in the fire.

After the attack, Unity North Dakota, a non-profit that "believes that direct action and strong opposition are needed to combat those who seek to spread injustice, hatred, and divisiveness," held a rally to "show solidarity with the Juba Coffee House." Grand Forks is on the North Dakota border with Minnesota, which is home to a significant Somali immigrant population.

News of Gust's arrest comes five days after a 26-year-old man assaulted employees and went on an anti-Muslim tirade at a New York City restaurant.

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