UK police are investigating a collision near a Muslim community center in northwest London early Wednesday as a possible hate crime.
Three people were injured after the car’s occupants were involved in a confrontation with a group of people and drove off, “hitting a number of pedestrians,” London’s Metropolitan Police said.
“Two people were taken to hospital for treatment; two of those injured are males in their twenties. Their injuries are minor. One did not require hospital treatment. A man in his fifties remains in hospital and is being treated for a serious leg injury,” it said.
The occupants, three men and a woman all in their mid-20s, had been asked by security staff at the Hussaini Association community center in Cricklewood to leave its private parking lot prior to the incident, police said.
The car was then driven near the community center “and the occupants were involved in a confrontation with a large group of people” who were visiting it, the statement said.
“Words were exchanged and comments of an Islamophobic nature were allegedly made by the group in the car. The car then reportedly sustained minor damage by some of those outside the centre. It proceeded to make off at speed colliding with three individuals as it left.”
Police are searching for the occupants of the car. No arrests have yet been made.
“This incident is not being treated as terror related but the hate crime aspect of the collision is being looked at by detectives as an aggravating factor,” said police.
A news release from the Hussaini Association said those leaving the center had attended one in a series of lectures commemorating Imam Hussain, who was the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson.
Those in the car “were heard shouting anti Islamic taunts at the crowd before they started their attack,” the news release said. “Fortunately, a number of volunteers bravely stood between the speeding vehicle and patrons heading home,” potentially saving lives.
Hassan Naddi, head of security at the Hussaini Association, told CNN that the incident happened as approximately 1,500 people were leaving after the event to mark Ashura, one of the holiest days in the Shiite Muslim calendar.
He said the car’s occupants were shouting slurs such as “dirty Muslims” and alleged that the driver was “trying his best” to target people.