WASHINGTON, June 19 — A tight-knit Muslim community in the Virginia suburbs of Washington was grieving today after a teenager was apparently assaulted and killed as she left a local mosque.
Friend and worshippers at the mosque, known as the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, have identified the teen as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston, who had disappeared for several hours yesterday.
While remains believed to belong to the teen were still being examined, police have charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling, where the mosque is located, with her murder.
Fairfax County police stressed on Twitter that they were “NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime,” although it follows a series of deadly incidents targeting Muslims in North America.
The attack occurred as a group of young Muslims were walking back from the town centre plaza in the early hours of Monday after late-night prayers at the mosque, according to accounts by police and worshippers.
“A man who appeared to be drunk got out of his car with a bat,” one of the youths, Tasneem Khan, wrote on social media.
All of the youths with the exception of Hassanen managed to run back to the mosque upon seeing the assailant.
Arsalan Iftikhar, an international human rights lawyer and commentator who attended the midnight prayer service, said the teen was “apparently beaten to death by this man.”
“Her name was Nabra... May Paradise Await Her,” he wrote on Facebook.
A statement from the mosque said: “We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event.”
“It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.”
The attack occurred during the waning days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. In North America, Ramadan is due to end with Eid al-Fitr celebrations starting Saturday.
The teens had apparently gone out to eat at a local restaurant before starting their fast at sunrise. Hassanen was reported missing around 4:00 am and the remains were found at a nearby pond around 3pm.
Police would not immediately confirm the nature of the assault and the exact manner of her death, pending a review by the chief medical examiner.
A widely distributed Snapchat photographic montage showed Hassanen, who wore a Muslim veil, smiling and sporting a golden nose ring.
Last month, two men were fatally stabbed in Portland, Oregon as they intervened to stop a man hurling anti-Muslim slurs at two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Another man who tried to halt the attack was also wounded.
In Quebec, six worshippers were shot dead in an attack on a mosque in January. — AFP