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Ten Baptist churches torched

THE FBI is investigating arson attacks last week against ten Baptist churches in rural areas of Alabama. Five were completely destroyed.

Half had predominantly black congregations, and half predominantly white, leaving investigators unable to ascribe a racial motive. The Governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, said he saw no evidence of a "grand conspiracy" against religion or Baptists.

All the buildings were small and off the beaten track, and all except Beaverton Free Will Baptist Church, the most recent victim, were burned at night. Locals familiar with country roads in the dark are under suspicion. The regional director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Jim Cavanaugh, suggested a "thrill motive".

The church communities and Baptist associations responded swiftly with help to begin rebuilding or to provide temporary accommodation. The state mission board said: "Strongly committed congregations [are] seeking to be certain that good comes out of evil."

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