Police call home-made bomb outside Walsall's Ashia Mosque a 'hate crime' and draft in counter-terror police

Remains of the bomb were handled by different people before committee rang police on suspicious item

Counter-terror police have been called in to assist with a major hate crime investigation after a small home-made bomb that had exploded near a mosque was discovered on Saturday night.

Around 150 people were evacuated from their homes, and 80 had to stay in temporary accommodation in the Caldmore area of Walsall on Saturday night to allow bomb disposal experts to make the device safe.

West Midlands Police confirmed the blast heard by residents on Friday “appeared to be consistent” with the device exploding. The remains of the device were not discovered until the following evening, when a member of the public found the remains. No one was injured and the device caused minimal damage.

The device was discovered in an alleyway adjoining the Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre in Rutter Street on Saturday by a local man who took it home and showed it to his wife.

Later, the mosque's imam also took the remains home before anyone realised their significance. Eventually members of the committee and local residents gathered at the mosque and decided to call police about the item, which reportedly contained a battery.

Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe said on Sunday evening: “The force is taking this attack against the mosque very seriously and we have a major investigation under way.

“To that end, I have called in support from all over the force, including the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, which has a number of experts supporting the inquiry.

“Specialist investigators have been working all day and continue to ensure that we maximise every opportunity from the crime scene.”

She added: “At this stage we are keeping an open mind on a motive, but have recorded it as a hate crime."

She described a hate crime as: "Any criminal act committed against a person or property that is motivated by the offender's hatred of people because of their gender, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.”

In a bid to reassure the community of their safety Walsall police have been patrolling the area, despite believing that the planting of the device was an isolated incident.

Zia Ul-Haq, a committee member and spokesman for the mosque, told BBC WM committee members contacted police at about 10.15pm because the device looked suspicious.

"It was found by one of our worshippers who after midday prayer was going home, and he had a look and it looked suspicious, so he picked it up and took it home.

“He showed it his wife and his wife said, 'Well, it looks like something suspicious so you should take it to the mosque'. So he brought it to the mosque but unfortunately there was nobody responsible in the mosque so he took it back home.

“Then he brought it back in the evening and then our imam had a look at it, and he took it home because nobody thought it was that serious.

“I said it looks suspicious and we decided to call the police. As soon as the police came they said we should not have handled it.”

Mr Ul-Haq thanked officers and the local council for the measures they had taken to support the community in the aftermath of the discovery.

He said: “They have taken this very seriously and they have supported us wholeheartedly and we are very grateful to the police and the local authority.

“We are not suspecting anybody, we are leaving it in the good hands of the police. We have beautiful relationships with the local community and we've never had any trouble at all at our mosque.”

Mr Ul-Haq told the BBC that the mosque had been a part of the community for more than 40 years and held strong relations with communities of all faiths, often holding open days for non-Muslims.

“We never ever thought there was going to be a problem and people are still finding it hard that somebody could have targeted us.”

Bomb disposal experts from the Royal Logistic Corps attended the scene to ensure the device was safe and forensic teams spent several hours conducting a detailed search for evidence.

About 80 people evacuated from the area as a precautionary measure overnight were given shelter by Walsall Council, while 70 residents stayed with friends or family.

Councillor Zahid Ali, portfolio holder for public health and protection, said the community was standing together "shoulder to shoulder" in support of the police.

“Walsall has really shown its mettle in coming together and responding with calm determination.”

The incident comes after a number of recent events at mosques following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London. Last week two men were charged in relation to an alleged arson at a mosque in Gloucester, and an Islamic cultural centre in Grimsby was hit by petrol bombs last month.

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull

Arsenal strengthened their grip on a top-four finish with a straightforward 3-0 win over Hull City.

Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
arts + ents Samuel L Jackson and Michael Madsen have taken part in a reading of Quentin Tarantino’s axed follow-up to Django Unchained.
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit