The chief of the city’s police has condemned a petrol bomb attack on a mosque as ‘disgraceful and cowardly’.
Local Area Commander Barry Halliday said the incident, which took place at the Granby Mosque in Peverel Drive, would not be allowed to divide Milton Keynes’ diverse community.
A bottle containing flammable liquid was set alight and thrown onto the roof of the Zainabia Islamic Centre, commonly known as Granby Mosque, at 11.30pm yesterday.
It came just a day after a British soldier was murdered by two men, who said the attack was retaliation for the deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Members of Granby Mosque were standing outside at the time of the petrol bombing and quickly extinguished the fire.
There was no significant damage caused to the mosque.
The KSI Muslim Community of Milton Keynes, which is based at the mosque, yesterday called the Woolwich attack ‘savage, mindless and barbaric’.
President of the Islamic Centre, Shabir Sabur, said such acts can never divide the nation.
Talking about the petrol bombing, investigating officer, Detective Inspector Nick Glister said: “We are currently in the infancy of the investigation and details are limited at this time.
“I would like to thank all the people who assisted us last night at the mosque and appeal to anyone who has information about this incident to contact us.
“There were people inside the mosque at the time of the incident and this could have been far worse had it not been for the quick actions of the people who were standing outside the mosque.”
And Mr Halliday added: “This is an extremely disgraceful and cowardly act which I condemn in the strongest possible terms.
“We have a multicultural and diverse community in Milton Keynes, who live and work together side by side, and we will not let a few misguided people divide us.
“I would like to ask the community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police right away by calling 101. Anyone with information about this incident should also call us and they will be dealt with the strictest of confidentiality.
“I would like reassure the community that we will do all we can to find the offenders and our neighbourhood teams will continue to patrol the area, so if anyone has any concerns they can speak to one of the officers.”
And cabinet member for communities at Milton Keynes Council, Peter Geary, said he was appalled by the incident.
“I am sure every resident in Milton Keynes will be appalled by this,” he said.
“One of Milton Keynes’ great strengths is the partnerships we’ve built across communities, and I urge people to build on these strong relationships in response to this pointless and cowardly act.”
Mr Sabur said: “Such acts committed by individuals or groups can never divide the nation. These criminals and terrorists must never be allowed to win, with all our communities and the nation united in our determination to fight off all forms of criminal and extreme behaviour and hate crimes, from whichever quarter it comes from.”
Yesterday’s statement from the mosque followed the Woolwich murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.
The attack took place at around 2.20pm on Wednesday, 400 metres from the perimeter of the Royal Artillery barracks, in Woolwich, south-east London.
The assailants spoke to witnesses at the scene and posed for pictures and in videos.
In mobile phone video footage first broadcast by ITV News, one said: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.
“The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
The two men remained on the scene, until armed police arrived. They were shot and apprehended, before being taken to two separate hospitals where they were being treated for their injuries under armed guard.
The statement said: “We, KSI Muslim Community of Milton Keynes (also known as Granby Mosque) strongly condemn the barbaric murder that took place on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, in Woolwich, London.
“The killing of an innocent person is in no way permitted under any pretext, and there is no legitimate cause for such savage and mindless action.”
It said that the ‘killing of an innocent person is in no way permitted under any pretext,’ adding that the Qu’ran states, ‘if someone kills one person they kill all of mankind’.
The statement concluded: ‘For now, our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of the soldier murdered in cold blood on our streets.’
There has been a spike in Islamophobic crime since Wednesday’s murder, with the Guardian reporting there were 38 such incidents over Wednesday night, including attacks on three mosques.
Thames Valley Police officers were in place in Duncombe Street in Bletchley, which is also home to a mosque, today.
Anyone with information about the petrol bombing should call DI Glister from Force CID in Milton Keynes on 101.