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Terror police called in over Walsall mosque bomb

Walsall | News | Published:

[gallery] Counter-terror police were today drafted in to help with a hate crime investigation after a small home-made bomb exploded near a mosque in the Black Country.

Around 150 people were evacuated from their homes in the Caldmore area of Walsall yesterday while bomb disposal experts dealt with the small device.

West Midlands Police said a loud bang heard by residents late on Friday 'appeared to be consistent' with the device exploding. No one was injured and it caused minimal damage.

Police chiefs today said they were taking the attack on the mosque 'very seriously'.

They said there was currently no evidence to suggest it was an act of terrorism, but stressed they were keeping an 'open mind'.

Army bomb disposal experts were called in after the device is believed to have gone off outside Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre, in Rutter Street.

Police were called to the scene around 10.45pm on Saturday after a member of the public who had found the device took it into the mosque.

The road was then sealed off and residents evacuated from their homes, as white-suited forensic officers scoured the scene for clues.

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Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe, from West Midlands Police, said: "The force is taking this attack against the mosque very seriously and we have a major investigation under way.

"To that end, I have called in support from all over the force, including the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, which has a number of experts supporting the inquiry.

"At this stage we are keeping an open mind on a motive but have recorded it as a hate crime.

"A hate crime is any criminal act committed against a person or property that is motivated by the offender's hatred of people because of their gender, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation." Police patrols have been stepped up around Walsall, including around places of worship.

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Supt Keith Fraser on the investigation

Members of the mosque said they had CCTV cameras around the outside of the building and police were today trawling through the footage.

Mr Zia Ul-Haq, a senior member of the mosque, said they had not initially considered the suspicious item to be serious but had called the police.

"We are more concerned now we know it was a home-made device, it does worry us," he said.

"But I think we are in good hands and the police have got a good presence in the area.

"I would say to people to be a bit more vigilant and keep a watchful eye but not to panic."

He said the mosque had 'beautiful relationships with the local community' and had never had any trouble at all.

The mosque reopened at around 1pm yesterday so worshippers could attend for prayers. Rutter Street residents were ordered to leave their homes at around 6am yesterday, with almost 80 being taken to Walsall Town Hall.

Walsall father Abdul Noor, of Rutter Street, also heard the noise on Friday night.

"I heard a loud bang, it was like a fire bomb but much louder than a firework," he said.

"I looked out my window and everything was normal, people were just walking along he street.

"I went into the mosque and no-one mentioned it so I didn't think anything of it.

"Then when you see houses being evacuated and the police saying there's a suspected explosive you think 'was that what I heard?'

Some were allowed back into their homes at around 10am after the cordon was narrowed, while those whose homes remained in the cordon were told to stay with friends and family.

The cordon was lifted at around 9pm and residents were able to return to their homes.

Valerie Vaz, MP for Walsall South, visited the scene yesterday.

She said police were right to exercise caution before coming to any conclusions about the suspicious item.

"I think we need to wait and see what the police come up with following their investigations.

"But I am pleased to see that the majority of my constituents who were evacuated in the early hours of Sunday morning are now back in their homes," she said.

Police are urging anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area to contact them on 101.

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