Counter-terrorism police have launched an investigation after five mosques in the British city of Birmingham were attacked on Thursday.
West Midlands Police first responded to reports of a man smashing the windows of a mosque in the north of the central English city with a sledgehammer at 2:32 a.m. When officers arrived at the scene they discovered the attack had taken place some time earlier.
In less than an hour, police were subsequently called to reports of a similar attack on a mosque nearby, and officers then began patrols around two other places of worship, where they discovered further damage.
At 10:03 a.m. officers were called to another mosque following reports of a fifth attack in which windows had been smashed.
West Midlands police announced that they are treating the attacks as being “linked,” but noted that the motive remains under investigation.
Forensic officers are currently working on scene to identify evidence, and CCTV footage is being examined.
Councilor Majid Mahmood told CNN that he was “shocked and appalled” by the attacks and said that the Muslim community in Birmingham has been “fearful of attacks since the terrorist attack in Christchurch (last Friday).”
“I firmly believe it is primarily due to the anti-Muslim prejudice being stoked up by right-wing politicians,” he added, while urging police to increase patrols around Muslim places of worship.
UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid also called the events “deeply concerning and distressing.” “Let me be clear – hateful behavior has absolutely no place in our society and will never be accepted,” he wrote on Twitter.
The attacks come less than a week after the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 50 people were killed.
West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson expressed shock over the attack and noted that officers are working closely with religious leaders.
“Since the tragic events in Christchurch, New Zealand, officers and staff from West Midlands Police have been working closely with our faith partners across the region to offer reassurance and support at mosques, churches and places of prayer,” he said in a statement.
“At this difficult time, it is incredibly important that everyone united against those who seek to create discord, uncertainty and fear in our communities,” Thompson added.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson added: “Attacks of this nature have no place in our community and will not be tolerated. I want to reassure people that West Midlands Police is doing all it can to bring the perpetrators to justice.”