LONDON: Police in London launched an investigation Wednesday into a possible hate crime after a car hit a crowd outside a mosque, injuring three people.
The collision, in Cricklewood in north London in the early hours of Wednesday, followed the occupants of the car allegedly directing “comments of an Islamophobic nature” at the group, according to the Metropolitan Police.
The incident left a man in his 50s hospitalised with “a serious leg injury”, while two other men in their 20s suffered minor injuries, it added.
Officers are working to trace the driver and occupants of the car — three men and a woman, all aged in their mid-20s — which fled the scene.
“This incident is not being treated as terror related but the hate crime aspect of the collision is being looked at by detectives as an aggravating factor,” the Met said in a statement.
The incident began when security at the Al-Majlis Al-Hussaini Islamic centre learned the people in the car were “behaving anti-socially, drinking and allegedly using drugs,” police added.
The vehicle occupants were asked to leave the private car park, sparking a “confrontation” with a large group of people outside the centre.
“Words were exchanged and comments of an Islamophobic nature were allegedly made by the group in the car,” the Met said.
“The car then reportedly sustained minor damage by some of those outside the centre.
“It proceeded to make off at speed colliding with three individuals as it left.”
Detective Sergeant Kelly Schonhage, from the local investigating team, said the incident was being treated “very seriously” and appealed for witnesses to come forward.
“Extra neighbourhood police patrols have been stepped up in the area and officers will be on hand to speak with those in the local community,” she added.
The number of hate crimes in England and Wales increased by 29 percent in 2016-2017, according to the latest Home Office statistics.
On June 19 last year Darren Osborne ploughed a van into people leaving late-night prayers at a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London, killing one man and injuring 11 others.
Osborne, who had left a note in the van in which he said he was seeking revenge for Islamist terror attacks and a child sex scandal, was charged with terrorism-related murder and sentenced to life in prison in February. —AFP