Suspicious fire guts Islamic center in London
LONDON (AP) — British counterterrorism officers were investigating a suspicious fire Wednesday at a Somali community center in London, where graffiti spelling out the name of a far-right group was left on the building.
The fire at the Somali Bravanese Welfare Association — also known as the Al-Rahma Islamic Center — came two weeks after the killing of a British soldier in London in a suspected Islamic extremist attack.
Mosques and Muslim centers in Britain have been on high alert after several were targeted following the killing, which shocked the nation and heightened racial tensions.
The Metropolitan Police said detectives were investigating if there was any link between the blaze at the Somali Center, which caused extensive damage, and the graffiti found on the building.
The graffiti read “EDL” — the anti-immigrant English Defense League.
The EDL has led several demonstrations around the country to protest the death of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby, 25, who was slain by two men wielding knives and meat cleavers near his barracks in southeast London on May 22.
Police and activists around the country have reported an increase in race-related hate crimes, violence and vandalism since Rigby’s killing.
Police said two buildings near the Somali center were evacuated Wednesday and one woman was treated for shock at the scene. No injuries were reported and no arrests have yet been made.