KUALA LUMPUR: Seven teenage boys have been arrested in connection with a fire at a religious school in the Malaysian capital which killed 21 students and two teachers.
The seven, aged 11 to 18, were brought to court and remanded for seven days, Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh told reporters at a news conference on Saturday (Sep 16).
"I can assure you now that the case is solved with the arrest of the seven of them," Singh said.
JUST IN: 7 suspects believed to have set tahfiz fire after being teased, "ejek mengejek". "We have solved the case," says KL police chief pic.twitter.com/wNkMIR3jPq— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) September 16, 2017
The arrested include students from the surrounding neighbourhood, and some have tested positive for consuming marijuana.
The police are treating the case as one of murder and mischief by fire.
Six out of seven suspects behind tahfiz fire tested positive for marijuana/ ganja.— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) September 16, 2017
The blaze erupted early on Thursday in a top-floor dormitory at the three-storey boarding school where most of the students were sleeping in bunk beds.
Asked if they intended to kill, police chief believes suspects, aged between 11 to 18-years-old, intended to burn. https://t.co/SFTRSJJh6b— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) September 16, 2017
The motive was to burn but because of their age, their maturity levels, they may not have known of the consequences, says KL police chief.— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) September 16, 2017
The deaths have sparked outrage in the country, after reports emerged that the only door at the school's dormitory had caught fire and that the windows had metal bars, leaving the victims trapped and unable to escape.
Asked if the suspects had planned to kill the victims, Singh said: "Intention was to burn, but it could be because of their age or because of their maturity levels, perhaps they may not have known that it would cause deaths."
Two gas cylinders were brought up from the kitchen to the second floor, he said.
Police initially said the fire was an accident caused by an electrical short circuit or a mosquito-repelling device, but said on Friday that they were not ruling out foul play.
Local media have reported that more than 1,000 fires took place in registered and unregistered religious schools from August 2015 to August 2017.