Arson Suspected in Denver Fire That Killed 5 From Senegal

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The president of Senegal on Thursday mourned the deaths of five members of a family of immigrants from his country who were killed one day earlier in a house fire in Denver that the authorities said appeared to have been set intentionally.

President Macky Sall tweeted in French, the official language of Senegal, which is in West Africa, that he was saddened to learn of the fatal fire and extended his condolences to the families of the victims.

Mr. Sall wrote that it was a serious matter and that he was closely monitoring the situation, while a prominent Muslim-American advocacy group called on investigators to examine whether the family had been targeted because of its religion.

Three adults and two children died when the fire swept through their two-story home in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood in northeast Denver at about 2:55 a.m. on Wednesday, the authorities said.

A homicide investigation is underway, according to police and fire officials, who said that early indications pointed to foul play.

The names of the victims, who officials said had all been found on the first floor, had not been released by the medical examiner’s office as of Thursday night. A police officer tried to rescue the victims but was thwarted by the flames, the authorities said.

“We have indication through some evidence that it was an arson,” Joe Montoya, the investigations division chief for the Denver Police Department, said during the news conference on Wednesday at the fire scene.

Three other people who were inside the house were able to escape the fire by jumping from the second floor, according to a Denver Fire Department spokesman, who said at the news conference that the survivors did not appear to have been seriously injured.

“This is a devastating time for Denver, for this community,” said Greg Pixley, a captain with the Denver Fire Department.

There are about 2,000 immigrants from Senegal in the greater Denver area, Papa Dia, a Senegalese community leader and spokesman for the family of the victims, said in an interview on Thursday night.

Mr. Dia said that the victims were a husband and wife, their daughter, the husband’s sister and her son. The flames and smoke were so intense that they could not get out of the house, he said.

Mr. Dia described the father as a hard worker and a devoted family man who had graduated from Colorado State University and was a civil engineer. The man’s father lives in New York and came to Colorado after the fire, he said.

“His dad’s wish is to make sure we have the remains sent back to Senegal,” Mr. Dia said. “That will be the next step.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, a steady procession of Senegalese immigrants gathered outside the charred remnants of the family’s home, which is near Denver International Airport.

Mayor Michael B. Hancock of Denver met with victims’ relatives, according to a spokeswoman.

“I wanted to personally extend my deepest condolences for this tremendous loss,” Mr. Hancock said in a statement on Thursday, “and assure this community we will move swiftly to determine what caused this tragedy.”

The Council on American Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, urged investigators on Thursday to look into whether the fire was a bias attack.

“We encourage law enforcement to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into this suspected arson,” Krista Cole, the acting head of CAIR-Colorado, said in a statement. “Because the family members who perished in this tragedy are members of minority and immigrant communities, it would only be prudent to investigate the possibility of a bias motive.”

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