LONDON – Counter-terrorism officers in London are investigating five incidents in which a suspicious letters containing a white powder were sent to Muslim centers, mosques and parliamentary officials, including Muslim peer Lord Ahmed of the British Upper House. While the powder has proven harmless, police fear this may have been a dry run for a proper attack.
Police are now probing the letters which also featured pictures of a mosque that was crossed out.
The letters were received the same day that the UK parliament was shut down and MPs were evacuated after a similar package, also containing white powder and the same message, was sent to Labour Party peer for Rotherham Lord Ahmed.
Bomb squads were deployed to parts of the city with the centers briefly closed on Thursday evening after the discoveries were reported. The substance has since turned out to be chalk but a police officer at the scene of the Masjid Ayesha mosque in Tottenham, one of the affected centers, said the incident was being taken seriously as it could be a dry run for a larger attack.
Police were called to the scene at Masjid Ayesha after the Imam opened the package and felt itchy from the white powder.
“I didn’t think much about the racial slur but was genuinely fearful for the community when I saw the white powder in the letter,” Nayim Zaman, a London resident who regularly attends the Masjid Ayesha centre, told Middle East Eye.
Police are treating the incident as a hate or religiously motivated crime, with the UK’s North East Counter Terrorism Unit coordinating the investigation.
According to the sources, at least six similar incidents have taken place previously.
The Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, North London, was also sent a package containing white powder.
The incidents come on the anniversary of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, in which 56 people were killed and more than 700 injured, but no link to those attacks has been established as yet.
A report published by the anti-Muslim hate crime and Islamophobia monitoring group Tell MAMA revealed that reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes in public spaces had risen by 326 percent in 2015.