Sledgehammer vandals attack five Birmingham mosques
Five mosques have had their windows smashed by sledgehammer vandals during a night of attacks.
The vandals targeted mosques across the north of Birmingham between 2.30am and 10am today.
West Midlands Police are treating the incidents as linked and are working with the Counter Terrorism Unit to track down the people responsible, however Chief Constable Dave Thompson said the motive for the attacks was not yet known.
Interactive map shows where attacks happened:
The vandalism comes less than one week after the fatal Christchurch shootings in New Zealand which saw at least 50 people shot dead after a gunman opened fire at a mosque.
Forensic evidence and CCTV footage is now being examined from the scene of the incidents in Handsworth Wood, Erdington, Aston and Perry Barr.
Police were called to the first incident at 2.32am when a man was reported to be smashing windows with a sledgehammer at the Jame Masjid in Birchfield Road, Handsworth Wood.
When they got there they found the attack had happened some time earlier.
Around 40 minutes later police were alerted to a similar attack at the Jam-E-Masjid Qiblah Hadhrat Sahib Gulhar Shareef mosque in Slade Road, Erdington.
Officers began patrols in areas with mosques and came across further damage at Witton Islamic Centre and Masjid Faizul Islam in Aston.
A further investigation was launched after police were called to reports of a smashed window at Jamia Masjid Ghousia on Albert Road, Aston, at 10.04am.
'Time to unite'
West Midlands Police chief constable Dave Thompson said: "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.
"At the moment we don’t know the motive for last night’s attacks.
“What I can say is that the force and the Counter Terrorism Unit are working side-by-side to find whoever is responsible.
"At difficult times like this, it is incredibly important that everyone unites against those who seek to create discord, uncertainty and fear in our communities.”
Neighbourhood officers are working closely with mosques around the West Midlands today, the force said.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson added: "These are shocking incidents which appear to have been designed to cause distress and alarm.
"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.
"Patrols will be significantly increased near mosques.
"People will be horrified by these attacks on the Muslim community.
"Birmingham is a tolerant city and will not allow these extreme acts that attempt to divide us."
MP 'stands in solidarity'
Labour deputy leader and West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson, said: “I’m deeply saddened and disturbed by the attacks that have taken place on mosques across Birmingham in the early hours of this morning.
“Mosques are places of worship where people should feel safe and I’m appalled that they’ve been targeted in this way.
“I stand in complete solidarity with the British Muslim community against the growing tide of Islamophobia we are facing in this country.
“We have recently seen the tragic consequences of right wing extremism in New Zealand.
"I hope the Government takes the necessary steps to reassure the British Muslim community and that the perpetrators of these hate-fuelled attacks are swiftly brought to justice.”
In the wake of the Christchurch shootings, Birmingham MP and former Sandwell councillor Preet Kaur Gill called on the Government to increase funds to step-up security at mosques and other places of worship.
In a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, she said: “The freedom to practice faith – or not – is one of the cornerstones of the free and diverse democratic society in which we live and it is absolutely essential that all faith communities are able to practice without fear of threat or attack.”
Anyone with information has been asked to contact police via Live Chat between 8am and midnight, via 101 any time, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.