Counter-terror police officers are investigating four mosques in Birmingham which were vandalised overnight, just a few days after the New Zealand attack. Police have said that they are working with representatives of the mosques after the buildings had their windows smashed into on the night of March 20th and during the early hours of the morning after.
The Muslim community have been left deeply shocked, as the vandal acts have occurred just days after the shootings which occurred in two mosques within New Zealand. The police force has confirmed that the Islamic Centre in Witton was amongst one of the mosques which were attacked overnight on 20th March. Officers have stated that they were called at 2:32 am in the morning to the report of a man smashing the windows with a sledgehammer at the mosque on Birchfield road.
The officers arrived within minutes, but they soon found out that the attack had happened sometime earlier. At 3:14 am, the police were alerted to a similar attack at the mosque on Slade road in Erdington. The police began to patrol around areas with mosques and came across further damage at places of worship in Witton, Aston, Broadway and Perry Barr. Forensic officers are working to identify the evidence and CCTV footage is being examined, the Police Department has stated. Neighbourhood officers are working closely with mosques around the West Midlands, police added.
The West Midlands Police chief constable Dave Thompson said: “Since the tragic event occurred in New Zealand, officers from West Midlands police have been working closely with our faiths across the region to offer reassurance and support to mosques, churches and other places of prayer. Right now, we don’t know the reason for last night’s attacks. But what I can say is that the force and the counter-terrorism unit are working together to find whoever is responsible”.
The Birmingham Council of mosques earlier released a statement saying that at least three buildings were vandalised on the night of 20th March. Sharafat Ali, who is the Imam of Witton Islamic Centre had said: “around seven windows and two doors were smashed between 1 am and 2 am” on the night. He had also stated he had become very shaken at the time of the New Zealand attack on the 15th March, which killed 50 worshippers’ in two mosques.
Ali also included that the community is shocked because of what’s happened in New Zealand as well. He has also said that they have been here for 30 years. In the morning there are generally around 40 worshippers for Morning Prayer and the Friday following the attack saw round 200 to 300 attendees.
After some time, another mosque was also vandalised in Cromer Road, Balsall Heath, during the morning of Saturday 23rd March. Police are examining the CCTV cameras after the criminal damage was done to a window of the building. Authorities do not believe the incident is linked to the first 5 Mosque attacks.
West Midlands Police said that after the break-ins, a 34-year-old man was arrested in Birmingham on suspicion for racially aggravated criminal damage. Police do not believe the incident was linked to the Mosque vandalism cases. The man was taken into police custody after surrendering himself at a local police station on 22nd March, where he was detained under the Mental Health Act.
In relations to the first five incidents, detectives do not believe that the suspect was part of a group although the investigation is still ongoing.