Vandalism reported at war memorials and mosques

English Defence League protestors at Whitehall. Picture: Getty
English Defence League protestors at Whitehall. Picture: Getty
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POLICE were last night investigating vandalism at war memorials in London and an attack on a mosque in Grimsby as the heightened racial tensions sparked by the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby six days ago showed few signs of abating.

The inquiry in the capital was launched after two war memorials were defaced, with the word “Islam” daubed over them in red spray paint.

It came as the chairman of a mosque in Grimsby described the moment he saw fire coming under the door of an Islamic cultural centre as he sat with a young family when the complex was hit by petrol bombs.

There was also a significant police presence in the centre of London as English Defence League (EDL) demonstrators staged a march, at one point pushing their way through a police cordon as they and members of anti-fascist organisations hurled dozens of glass bottles at each other.

With the Metropolitan Police investigation into Drummer Rigby’s death ongoing, the force confirmed it was looking into two acts of vandalism at war memorials in central London.

The RAF Bomber Command memorial and the Animals in War memorial were defaced in the early hours of yesterday.

The word “Islam” was said to have been daubed on them, with inscriptions obscured by red spray paint.

A police spokesman said: “At 5am, police discovered graffiti on both the RAF Bomber Command war memorial in Green Park and the Animals in War memorial in Park Lane. Royal Parks’ officers and Westminster police are investigating. There have been no arrests at present.”

The incidents were being treated as criminal damage, the force added.

Meanwhile, Humberside Police confirmed a fire was started at Grimsby’s Islamic Cultural Centre shortly before 10pm on Sunday. Two men, aged 33 and 37, were arrested by officers patrolling in the area and remain in custody. No-one was injured.

Mosque chairman Diler Gharib said: “We had just finished our prayers and were discussing how to thank our neighbours for the support they have shown us over the past few days when we heard a bang and saw fire coming under the door.

“I grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out and then two more petrol bombs hit the fire escape and the bin so I had to put those out, too.”

Mr Gharib said police had been monitoring the mosque after it was targeted by youths last week and officers were able to quickly apprehend two suspects.

He said the murder of Drummer Rigby in Woolwich was a criminal act that had nothing to do with the Muslim faith.

He said: “We have all been feeling on edge and now this has happened. It’s not just the people at the mosque we are worried about – it’s our wives, daughters and children who are out in the community.”

Chief Superintendent Tony Forbes, of Humberside Police, said: “The immediate response by officers led to a number of arrests being made quickly and investigations are under way by detectives.”

The Islamic centre in Grimsby is part of a complex that includes a mosque which was targeted by youths last week.

Eleven teenagers were arrested after that incident, which happened after a party spiralled out of control, police said. The 16- and 17-year-olds were arrested on Thursday.

Following Sunday night’s incident, Great Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell said attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions were playing into the hands of terrorists who wanted community conflict.

Mr Mitchell said: “It’s sheer, simple stupidity. I’m appalled and shocked. I didn’t expect this in Grimsby. These idiots, whoever they are, are playing directly into the hand of the

terrorists.”

In London, about 1,000 supporters of the EDL attended a march, pushing their way through a police cordon as they made their way to Trafalgar Square. They chanted “Muslim killers off our streets” and “There’s only one Lee Rigby” in tribute to the 25-year-old soldier.

The protesters held placards that read “Blood on your hands” and “GB RIP”.

The demonstrators were escorted by Metropolitan Police officers and vans, while a force helicopter followed overhead. A Scotland Yard spokesman said Whitehall had been closed to traffic because of “a number of demonstrations”.

The group made their way along Whitehall before taking a position on the pavement across the road from Downing Street, near a much smaller group of anti-fascist demonstrators.

EDL leader Tommy Robinson told the demonstration: “This is a day of respect for our armed forces.”

The crowd repeatedly chanted “coward” after he claimed Prime Minister David Cameron was on holiday “because he doesn’t care”.

Mr Robinson added: “They’ve had their Arab Spring. This is time for the English Spring.”

The EDL supporters and anti-fascists hurled bottles towards each other. Police officers dressed in riot gear intervened to stop them throwing more.

Scotland Yard said a total of 13 people had been arrested for a range of public-order offences throughout the day. The figure is thought to include both EDL supporters and anti-fascist protesters.

Last night, the forces’ charity Help for Heroes announced it would not accept any donations raised by Mr Robinson.

The EDL leader started fund-raising following last week’s murder, but a spokesman for Help for Heroes said the Just Giving page set up by Mr Robinson would be closed down and all donations would be refunded.

The charity will check for any further donations from EDL members and reject them.

Britain needs long-term strategy to tackle Muslim radicalisation, warns ex-minister

A FORMER counter-terrorism minister has warned the UK government it requires a “long- term, generational strategy” to prevent the radicalisation of young British Muslims, and criticised the administration for failing to take action at a local level.

Hazel Blears, who was communities secretary, warned that too much of the coalition government’s focus had been on policing and security measures rather than supporting integration.

She backed Prime Minister David Cameron’s creation of a task force to crack down on extremism but added there was “much more to be done”.

Ms Blears, a member of the Commons intelligence and security committee, said the government was right to review the Prevent strategy – which was set up by the Labour government to tackle radicalisation – in 2011.

But she added: “What I am concerned about now is that the Prevent programme work that was being done in local communities with local authorities appears to have been abandoned and the Prevent programme now is purely run by the Home Office, who are doing everything they can through the police.

“But there’s a whole range of other work that needs to be done, particularly with young people, with women, getting that sense of British values and working very much at a local level where these problems are.

“I actually think it’s really important for young people in communities to feel that this is their community and that way you stop the next generation being groomed into extremism. I think the two things do have a connection.”

She said that banning extremist preachers from TV screens or blocking their websites would not be enough.

“I don’t think this is simply a matter of banning things. You have to take on this ideology and that way you have to empower young people, people right across communities, to say ‘this is not our religion, this is not our belief’ and to tackle the extremists themselves,” she said.

“This is a long-term, generational strategy and my concern now is we have to get back on this agenda.

“I think we have to, all of us, pull together on this, it’s so important for the country.”

Meanwhile, anti-terrorism police in Kenya confirmed Woolwich murder suspect Michael Adebolajo was arrested by the authorities there three years ago because they feared he was attempting to join an

al-Qaeda-linked militant group.

Adebolajo was arrested with five other men near the border with Somalia, police chief Boniface Mwaniki said.

He said they believed Adebolajo was preparing to cross into the war-torn country to train and fight with militant group al-Shabab at the time.

The confirmation came as his brother-in-law claimed his family had proof he was tortured “violently and sexually” after he was arrested.

In an anonymous interview, he said the experience had changed him and accused the UK government of leaving him at the mercy of Kenyan police.

See also:

• Woolwich attack: 10th person arrested