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Philadelphia business owner, accomplice charged for starting blaze that killed firefighter

The owner of a Philadelphia building that caught fire and collapsed last summer, killing a city firefighter and injuring five other people, has been indicted along with another man on charges they set the blaze, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Al-Ashraf Khalil and Isaam Jaghama, both 29-year-old city residents, are each charged with conspiracy and malicious damage. Khalil, the building’s owner, was originally charged last year, but is now also charged with wire fraud and using fire in furtherance of committing that fraud.

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The building housed a pizza shop and some upstairs apartments. Authorities have said Khalil and Jaghama entered the restaurant’s basement doors and started a fire in the kitchen area. Prosecutors said the pair set the fire so Khalil could profit by filing an insurance claim.

Khalil indictment

Al-Ashraf Khalil and Isaam Jaghama, both 29-year-old Philadelphia residents, have been formally charged in a case accusing them of setting Khalil’s business on fire so he could profit off of an insurance claim. A fireman died while responding to it. (Elizabeth Robertson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File)

The June 18 blaze killed Lt. Sean Williamson, 51, who was trapped in the rubble and pronounced dead at the scene.

AL ASHRAF KHALIL ARREST: PHILADELPHIA BUILDING OWNER CHARGED AFTER FIREFIGHTER KILLED IN BLAZE

Eight people were safely evacuated from the apartments after the fire broke out, but the building collapsed after the blaze was brought under control and trapped Williamson inside.

Shortly after the fire occurred, authorities said Khalil flew from the United States to Jordan after telling investigators he had no travel plans. However, he was refused entry to Jordan and was arrested at an airport in New York City. Authorities have said they used handcuffs that had the deceased firefighter’s initials on them.

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Khalil’s attorney, R. Emmett Madden, has said his client had no role in starting the fire. It wasn’t immediately known Wednesday if Jaghama has retained an attorney. Both men could face up to life in prison if convicted.

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