A popular Gurdwara and a mosque were set on fire in arson attacks at the same time in Leeds on Tuesday (5) with the police treating them as hate crimes.
The Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque in Hardy Street, Beeston, was attacked, along with the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara in Lady Pit Lane.
The main door of the mosque in south of the city centre had been set on fire at about 3.45am (local time) yesterday. A few minutes later, the door of the Gurdwara was also set on fire, the report said.
The Sikh Press Association said a bottle filled with petrol had been set alight at the doorstep of the Gurdwara, triggering a smoke alarm. Residents called the fire brigade and the police and the fire was quickly dealt with, they said.
Detective Inspector Richard Holmes, of Leeds District CID, said: “We are treating both these incidents as linked given the closeness of the locations and the similar times that they have occurred.”
“While our investigation is still at a relatively early stage, we do believe these premises have been specifically targeted as places of worship and we are treating both incidents as arsons and hate crimes.”
“We are currently carrying out extensive enquiries, including checks on CCTV in both areas, and we would like to hear from anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or seen any person or vehicles in the areas around the time these incidents have occurred.”
“Clearly we will always treat incidents of this nature very seriously and will be doing everything we can to identify those responsible and bring them to justice,” he added.
In a statement, representatives of the Gurdwara said: “We have attended a police emergency meeting and have been assured by the chief of Police that they are doing all they can to catch the criminals and will add extra police patrols in the area.
Inspector Ian O’Brien, who heads neighbourhood policing for south Leeds, said: “These incidents will cause an understandable level of concern in both the Muslim and Sikh communities in this area and we are working closely with key representatives from those communities to reassure them.
“Although it appears both locations have been specifically targeted as places of worship for these communities, there is nothing at this stage to suggest they are part of any wider pattern.”
“We have increased our patrols of the area to provide visible reassurance to people living there and will continue to keep key community representatives informed as the investigation develops.”
“Hate crimes that target particular communities and have the potential to cause divisions and tensions cannot and will not be tolerated and we will continue to do everything we can to find those responsible and support and reassure the communities affected.”
Nadeem Murtuja, interim director of Just Yorkshire which promotes racial justice, human rights and equality, said such “acts of hate” were worrying.
“Mosques, gurdwaras and other places of worship repeatedly open doors to people of faith, no faith and all diversities to improve understanding, yet despite these positive actions, hate crimes continue to rise and the police continue to provide support and assurance,” he said.