Suspicious Item At Mosque 'A Hate Crime'

David Crabtree, Midlands Correspondent
Sky News23 June 2013
Suspicious Item At Mosque 'A Hate Crime'

A suspicious item found near a mosque in the West Midlands is being treated as a hate crime, police have said.

Almost 40 homes close to the mosque in Rutter Street, Walsall, were evacuated after bomb disposal experts were called to the scene.

The area remains condoned off, but 150 people who were moved from the vicinity are now being allowed back in their homes.

West Midlands Police said they were alerted after the item was found last night by a member of the public.

Superintendent Keith Fraser, the head of crime and operations for Walsall Police, said the incident  is being treated as a hate crime but the motive for placing the item near a mosque remains unclear.

Speaking at the scene, he said: "At around 10.15pm on Saturday, police were called to Aisha mosque in relation to a suspicious item that had been found. The force are taking this extremely seriously.

"We have launched a full investigation into the suspicious item that has been found, and what's going to be the key to this is the public's help in relation to helping us to understand why that suspicious item was in the area."

"Officers are continuing to work hard to establish what the item is and how it got there but the incident is being treated as a hate crime, although the motive for placing the item near to the mosque remains unclear."

The mosque is known for its open policy, welcoming people from other religions. A spokesman said there have never been any problems at the venue.

Abdul Shahid, who lives locally, said:"Something happened here on Friday night. I think there was some wires and some batteries. The Iman took that thing straight to the police.

"I have been told by neighbours of the mosque that they heard a blast on the night of Friday evening. "

Plenty of help was on hand for those affected by the evacuation.

Local councillor Zahid Ali said: "We have put in comprehensive support for them, including food and whatever other support they require.

"It is absolutely wonderful to see that the communities have come together, supporting the residents and most of those residents are back in their homes.

Zia Ul Haq, from the Aisha Mosque thanked the police and local authority for their help.

"We found this suspicious item which we didn't consider to be very serious or very threatening. but as a precaution we thought that we would call the police and bring this to their attention. They have taken this very seriously and they have supported us wholeheartedly' he said.

:: Anyone with information which may help should call police on 101 or click here .

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