The imam of a mosque in Rochdale has died after being found with head injuries in a children’s playground.
The man, named locally as Jalal Uddin, was believed to be walking home on Thursday night when he was injured.
Passers-by found him with a serious head injury in the playground in South Street shortly before 9pm.
Mr Uddin had attended evening prayers before visiting a friend for dinner and was taking a short cut while walking home, ITV News reported.
Police and paramedics were called to the scene but he died of his injuries in hospital.
“A major investigation has been launched and enquiries are ongoing to formally identify the man and establish the circumstances surrounding how he came to be injured,” a spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said.
A post-mortem was scheduled to take place on Friday afternoon.
The Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim group trying to foster community cohesion, paid tribute to Mr Uddin, who was the former imam of Rochdale’s Jalalia Jaame Mosque.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the foundation, said: “The news that a popular local Imam from Rochdale was murdered last night returning from prayers at a local mosque is shocking and tragic. Whilst it is too early to speculate about the circumstances of the murder we would urge the community of Rochdale to stay united and calm.
“Qari Jalaluddin saab was on his return home from Jalali Jame Mosque when he died. We pay tribute to him and his unique contribution to our community in Rochdale.
“We offer our sincere condolences and prayers to his family, friends and the wider community.”
Police have not confirmed speculation that Mr Uddin was attacked but Mr Shafiq urged mosques in the area to consider security precautions and measures to ensure people travelled homes from mosques safely.
Detective Superintendent Jon Chadwick, from GMP’s Serious Crime Division, said police wanted to hear from anyone in the area as they try to establish how Mr Uddin was injured.
Superintendent Rick Jackson added: “We know local people will be worried when they hear the news of what has happened and we have extra patrols in place to try and reassure the community.
“If you have concerns or believe you may have seen, heard or know anything that can assist this investigation then please approach one of these officers.
“There has been a lot of speculation on social media about what has happened but I would to ask that people allow us to investigate this incident and if you have information then please contact police.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 or alternatively, the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.