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Graffiti and fire could be linked

06 June 2013, 08:22

London - British counter-terrorism police were on Wednesday investigating a fire that gutted a Somali community centre in London, after far-right graffiti was found at the scene.

Police and firefighters were called in the early hours to a serious blaze at the Somali Bravanese Welfare Association in Muswell Hill, north London, which is believed to house a Muslim prayer centre.

Counter-terrorism police have taken over the investigation after graffiti reading "EDL", the far-right English Defence League, was found on the building, London's Metropolitan Police said.

"The cause of the fire is currently under investigation and is being treated as suspicious at this stage," the force said in a statement.

Several British mosques have been attacked and there has been a rise in anti-Muslim incidents since a soldier was brutally hacked to death on a London street last month, while far-right groups have held several rallies in the wake of the killing.

Two Muslim converts of Nigerian descent have been charged with the murder of soldier Lee Rigby near his barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, on May 22.

Police said the fire at the Islamic centre had caused "extensive damage".

"Graffiti reading EDL has been found on the building. Police are investigating any potential connection between the graffiti and the fire," Scotland Yard added.

"Police have started consulting and will work closely with the Somali and Islamic communities to provide support and reassurance."

Prime Minister David Cameron has called for calm in the wake of the soldier's murder.

"Just as we will not stand for those who pervert Islam to preach extremism, neither will we stand for groups like the English Defence League who try to demonise Islam and stoke up anti-Islam hatred by bringing violence and disorder to our towns and cities," Cameron told parliament on Monday.

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