Police probe for anti-Muslim motive in fire at London Somali center

Police investigate Somali center fire
Police investigate Somali center fire

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Police investigate Somali center fire 00:10

Story highlights

  • The Somali community center was extensively damaged
  • Graffiti apparently written by a far-right group was found on the building, police say
  • Police will boost patrols in the area, a senior officer says
Police are investigating whether anti-Muslim sentiments were behind a fire early Wednesday that caused extensive damage to a Somali community center in north London.
The fire, in the Muswell Hill neighborhood, is being treated as suspicious, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Police told CNN that investigators will probe whether the attack may have been directed against Muslims.
The letters "EDL" -- a possible reference to the English Defence League, a far-right group -- were found on the building, the statement said. "Police are investigating any potential connection between the graffiti and the fire."
The force "will work closely with the Somali and Islamic communities to provide support and reassurance," the statement said.
The Met's Counter Terrorism Command is leading the inquiry.
Emergency services were called to the fire at the Somali Bravanese Welfare Association at 3:23 a.m.
One woman was treated for injuries not suffered in the fire, police said.
Community leaders said they and the center had co-existed peacefully for 20 years, Chief Superintendent Adrian Usher told reporters.
Police will increase patrols in the area, he said. No one has been arrested.
Tensions in the metropolitan area have been heightened since May 22, when a soldier, Lee Rigby, was killed in Woolwich in southeast London. Two men have been charged with murder in the case.
The English Defence League has staged protest marches in London and elsewhere. The group says that Islamic law is poised to overthrow British society and calls for Britons to act aggressively to pre-empt it.
Cressida Dick, assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, told lawmakers Tuesday that hate crime reports rose after the Woolwich attack but had since declined.
She told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee that some "horrible attacks on mosques" had taken place, but she was not aware of any assaults on people.
The spike in reported crimes was less than spikes that followed the 9/11 attacks in the United States and the 2005 bomb attacks on London's transport system, she added.