Minibus at Islamic Centre burnt down in arson attack
Categories: Latest News
Tuesday September 09 2014
In a disturbing development prior to the arson attack, two CCTV cameras were ripped from the Centre building last Friday evening, 5 September. In its latest report, ITV notes that four cameras were stolen from the building. The offenders suspected of stealing the security cameras have been described as black men in black clothes who had their faces covered with scarves.
Two hours later, in the early hours of Saturday morning, a minibus belonging to the centre was torched. Two men, also in black clothing, were seen running from the scene.
Police officers were called to the scene along with the fire brigade but the vehicle was completely destroyed by the blaze.
The minibus, which the centre purchased two months ago for £6,000, was used to ferry young and elderly visitors to the mosque, Manchester Evening News reports.
Abiola Ojo, the Chairman of the Centre said “We needed this bus as now some people won’t be able to make prayer meetings.
“But there is also the psychological effect on our members, they are now living in fear. They don’t want to come to a building where they think they might be in danger.”
A palpable fear in the community has increased following the arson attack given that it is not the first time the centre has been targeted. According to Manchester Evening News, senior staff at the centre claimed that the arson attack was “the latest in a string of incidents” since the former Methodist Church was converted into a mosque in April 2013. There have been more than a dozen hate crime incidents targeting the centre including anti-Islamic graffiti daubed on the building and pigs’ heads thrown inside the building.
Keji Jamiu told ITV News that this was the third or fourth time the local community had experienced an act of religiously aggravated criminal damage or hate crime.
Jamiu reveals that when the CCTV cameras were initially installed by the Centre, they were damaged. There was also an earlier attempted petrol bomb attack. Moreover, Jamiu claims that someone walked by on Saturday morning and verbally mocked him saying “This is England. We are English. You will have to go.”
In relation to the latest attack, Police Inspector Chris Hadfield, from Greater Manchester Police, stated:
“We believe the two incidents are linked and that the theft of the CCTV cameras was meant to help them carry out their arson attack on the minibus without being recorded.
“Fortunately there are several other cameras that capture the rear of the Islamic
Centre, where the attack took place.
“We are investigating the possibility that this is a targeted hate crime and we will be working closely with our partners in the council and local community to try and track down the people responsible and prevent such an attack happening again.”
The police have consequently launched an appeal for witnesses.
It is perhaps too early to draw any inference between the attacks on the Islamic Centre in Newton Heath but the cover story of The Sun newspaper last Friday, ‘’Muslim convert’ beheads woman in garden’ won’t have helped community relations.