A man has been arrested over an arson attack outside a mosque in Manchester.
A minibus, which was used to ferry elderly worshippers, was torched outside the Manchester Islamic Centre on Regent Street, Newton Heath, earlier this month. Police were called to the building, off Droylsden Road, shortly before 11.30pm on Friday, September 5, and found two CCTV cameras had been ripped from the front of the building.
No one was present at the building, which contains a mosque and educational facilities, at the time and officers intended to return the next day to inform them of the theft. However, around two hours later at 1.20am on Saturday morning, they were called again after a minibus, parked in a secure yard at the back of the centre, was found ablaze. Investigators later found the bus, which cost around £6,000, had been deliberately torched.
Police have now arrested a 34-year-old man from Eccles, Salford, on suspicion of theft and arson.
At the time, leaders at the centre, which is mainly attended by people of Nigerian descent, claimed it was a hate crime and said it wasn’t the first time they had been targeted. Centre chairman Abiola Ojo said that more than 300 people who regularly visit the centre were now ‘living in fear’ as a result of the attack.
A senior officer said they were still investigating whether it was indeed a hate crime but said it was ‘notable’ that the suspect was not from the area. Police say the investigation is ongoing as they believe at least one other person was involved and they are appealing for witnesses to come forward.
Insp Shan Nasim, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “We have made one arrest, notably of someone not from the immediate area, but this investigation is far from over. We know for a fact there was at least one other person involved, so it is vital that we get potential witnesses to come forward with any information they may have.
“We are investigating the possibility that this is a targeted hate crime and we will be working closely with our partners in the council and local community to try to track down the people responsible. There will be additional patrols in the area to provide reassurance to the community.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.