Is this revenge for Lee Rigby's murder? Right-wing 'EDL' graffiti is found on London Islamic community centre which was torched in arson attack
- Fire broke out in Muswell Hill, north London, at around 3am today
- Police probe link to English Defence League after 'EDL' graffiti is found
- No arrests have been made so far
By Rob Cooper
Graffiti reading 'EDL' was found on an Islamic community centre which burned to the ground today in a suspected arson attack.
Counter terrorism officers were called in after flames engulfed the premises, which are said to house a prayer centre in Muswell Hill, north London, shortly after 3am.
The Metropolitan Police said an investigation had revealed the graffiti apparently linking the fire to the far-right English Defence League.
The discovery has sparked fears that the fire might have been started in retaliation for the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich last month.
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Six fire engines and around 35 firefighters tackled the blaze at the Somali Bravanese Welfare Association which started in the early hours of today.
English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson this afternoon said he was 'sceptical' about whether the EDL were involved - but he has not yet condemned the attack.
Appearing to suggest that Muslims may have torched the community centre, he wrote: 'There were 26 fire bombings in Luton with graffiti saying EDL? Guess who was arrested for it? Muslims! Sorry if I'm sceptical'.
The Metropolitan Police said graffiti reading EDL - the initials of the English Defence League - was found on the building and they are investigating any possible link.
A police spokesman said: 'The fire caused extensive damage to the community centre, which is cordoned off while officers and LFB continue their investigations.
'Graffiti reading EDL has been found on the building. Police are investigating any potential connection between the graffiti and the fire.
'One woman was treated for minor injuries not sustained in the fire.
'Officers from specialist investigation teams are at the scene and a vigorous and thorough investigation into the incident will be carried out.
'Police have started consulting and will work closely with the Somali and Islamic communities to provide support and reassurance.'
Detectives said that they were working to see if the EDL graffiti was linked to the fire.
Chief Superintendent Adrian Usher, of Barnet Police, said: 'It is very early in the investigation.
'I can confirm that three letters were written on the Islamic centre.
'The three letters EDL have been found and we are working hard to determine if that's linked to this fire.
'As you can imagine exactly when and where that graffiti was placed is a focal point of the inquiry. It's too early to say whether these letters were done at the same time as the attack.
'We will pursue all possible lines of inquiry until we know where it come from and if it is connected to the fire.
'Whoever was involved, they will be pursued to the full extent of the law and brought before the courts.'
Asked if anyone had claimed responsibility, he said: 'I can confirm that no, nobody has yet formally taken responsibility.'
He added: 'What I would like to say is what a positive response we have had from the community. They have shown real unity across faiths.
'By 8am this morning representatives of the Jewish and Christian communities had phoned me to offer support.
'We don't know at this stage who is responsible or what their motivation is but the community has responded brilliantly. Community leaders have been calm and have shown amazing resolution.
'They have told me they have existed in this community peacefully for 20 years. They believed they were living peacefully and have always been supported by the community.
'This is not a mosque, it's a conference centre. Somalian and Sudanese kids have Arabic classes there. I have no information it is used for prayers.
'It is definitely not a mosque but it obviously has cultural significance to this Somalian community, who are devastated by this fire.'
There have been no arrests so far.
Campaigners and members of the local community spoke of their devastation today and branded the fire an 'attack against a peaceful community'.
Ali Abu, 30, of the Somali charity BritSom, said: 'We are all shocked by what has happened. We condemn this attack.
'The situation is very serious at the moment. We are appalled and deeply saddened by this attack against a peaceful community.'
Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, said: 'Obviously this is very shocking news.
'This kind of crime would be in its own right very serious but the apparent link with extremism and hatred makes this a truly disgusting act.
'From what I know of the attack there does appear to be a link with extremism, hatred and prejudice. This does look to be a hate and I think it's utterly disgusting.
'If it has a goal it will not achieve it.
'Attacks like this are designed to divide communities. I'm certain this will not happen in our community.'
Fiyaz Mughal, of Faith Matters, a group which monitors anti-Muslim hatred, said members of the local Muslim community would attend the Islamic centre, housed in the same building, to pray or participate in activities.
'Bearing in mind this is close to Woolwich, bearing in mind that it houses Islamic activities, bearing in mind that they have found alleged EDL graffiti, there's a strong likelihood that this could be an anti-Muslim incident.
'It is very concerning when we know that, online, there is a huge amount of anti-Muslim hate. We know that. When it moves into the physical world, it is extremely concerning.'
Scotland Yard said specialist investigation teams would conduct a 'vigorous and thorough' investigation into the blaze, which caused the building to partially collapse.
Police have asked people who were near to Coppetts Road last night or early this morning, or who may have any information about the fire, to call the Incident Room on 020 7230 2299.
Alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
BOMBER COMMAND MEMORIAL ATTACKED BY VANDALS FOR SECOND TIME
A war memorial that was attacked by vandals in central London last week has been targeted for a second time.
The RAF Bomber Command War Memorial in Green Park has 'once again been subjected to vandalism', the RAF Benevolent Fund said.
A blog post on the fund's website said: 'We are extremely disappointed and saddened that the Bomber Command Memorial has once again been subjected to vandalism.
'Work is currently under way to remove the graffiti.'
The post by Air Marshal Chris Nickols, controller, RAF Benevolent Fund, continued: 'The RAF Benevolent Fund exists to provide welfare for past and present RAF personnel and their dependants who are in need; this latest attack will once again divert much needed resources away from our primary purpose.'
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "At 4.43 this morning officers came across graffiti on the Bomber Command War Memorial in Green Park."
Although the spokesman would not confirm what the graffiti said, it is not thought to be of a similar nature to the graffiti daubed on the memorial last week.
The RAF Bomber Command War Memorial - and the Animals in War Memorial on Park Lane - were daubed with graffiti on May 27.
Although the words written on the two memorials were covered up quickly after police made the discovery at around 5am, it is thought 'Islam' was written on each of them.
The Bomber Command Memorial remembers the sacrifice and bravery of the 55,573 RAF crew who lost their lives in the Second World War and was unveiled by the Queen last summer.
A couple of weeks ago Dame Judi Dench described herself as being "very proud" to be the first patron of a new campaign to preserve it for generations to come.
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