Firefighters attempt to control the blaze at an Islamic centre in north London. Photograph: Sky News
Counter-terrorism police investigate fire at Islamic community centre
Police confirm EDL graffiti found at site of blaze in Muswell Hil, London, as fears increase of reprisals after Woolwich murder
Police are treating a fire that badly damaged an Islamic community centre and mosque as suspicious amid continuing fears of reprisals after the Woolwich murder.
Specialist officers from the Metropolitan police's counter-terrorism command are leading the investigations in to the incident at Muswell Hill, north London.
Police have also confirmed that graffiti reading "EDL" – which may stand for English Defence League, a far right group – was found at the building, while neighbours reported hearing a loud explosion in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
A large area has been cordoned off with officers conducting a fingertip search in surrounding streets.
Scotland Yard said: "The cause of the fire is currently under investigation and is being treated as suspicious at this stage … Graffiti reading EDL has been found on the building. Police are investigating any potential connection between the graffiti and the fire."
Funny how the story has changed since this morning. I smell a fit up #edl #ukip
... Love and Peace!
Early today they were saying the graffiti on the burnt Somali centre said “love and peace” now they are saying it said “EDL”. This story stinks. Zoe
This is the bit where they start covering up attacks on our stuff, while massively publicising any attack on Muslim property.
Al-Rahma Islamic Centre destroyed in ‘racist attack’ Kurt Barling: ”The police cannot rule out that this was a racist attack” An Islamic centre in north London has been destroyed by a fire in an apparent racially motivated attack. The Met Police said the fire, which happened at the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre in Muswell Hill in the early hours, is being treated as suspicious. A spokesman said the letters EDL (English Defence League) were sprayed on to the building, used by the Somali Bravanese Welfare Association. London Mayor Boris Johnson called the attack “cowardly and pathetic”. The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command are investigating the cause of the fire on Coppetts Road. BBC London correspondent Kurt Barling, who is at the scene, said the centre’s leaders had told him they had seen freshly sprayed racist graffiti on the building and they were concerned the fire was in reaction to the killing of a soldier in Woolwich. Two men have been charged in connection with the attack. ‘Appalled and saddened’ It was not used for prayers, but as a community centre which was mainly used by children after school. Abu Bakar Ali, from the centre, said: “The Somali community is in fear. Chief Supt Adrian Usher: “When and where that graffiti was placed is the focal point of the inquiry” “We are all shocked about what has happened and we strongly condemn the attack on the centre. As you can see, the situation is a very serious one indeed. “We are appalled and deeply saddened by the horrific and foolish act against a peaceful community. While no one was thankfully physically hurt in the attack, the effects of this crime will be felt very deeply.” Borough Ch Supt Adrian Usher said the EDL graffiti was found on the outside of the building. He said the Counter Terrorism Command Unit was investigating the incident because of their expertise, rather than it being terrorism related. He said nothing was being ruled out at this stage until they can disprove it. Mr Usher added that he did not believe anyone was inside at the time of the blaze. “I have spoken to community leaders and assured them that a thorough investigation is being conducted. “The safety of our communities is always our priority and we are consulting widely, offering our support and reassurance.