London

White powder sent to Muslim centres in London

A police van outside the Houses of Parliament Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A suspicious package was delivered to Lord Ahmed at the Houses of Parliament

Counter-terrorism officers are investigating five incidents in which white powder was sent to Muslim centres, mosques and government buildings in London.

A mosque in Leyton, a Muslim centre in Finsbury Park and another in Tottenham all received packages on Thursday.

Muslim peer Lord Ahmed was also sent hate mail along with white powder.

A government mail screening service at Newham also received white powder in a package.

Three of the packages were found to be "not noxious or suspicious", Scotland Yard said.

Anthrax fears

Aslam Hansa from the Noor Ul Islam Trust in Leyton said the envelope felt "suspicious and lumpy".

"When we opened it we saw it said 'paki filth' with a picture of a mosque and there was white powder inside.

"We have a very good relationship with the local police and they said to call 999.

"We've never really experienced anything like this before - it saddens us - but we're grateful that it wasn't anything worse and that nobody was hurt."

Image copyright Areeb Ullah/MEE
Image caption The white envelope sent to a mosque in Tottenham
Image copyright Areeb Ullah/MEE
Image caption The powder has been found to be non-hazardous

Mr Hansa praised the actions of police and ambulance staff who attended.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that the North East Counter Terrorism Unit is investigating.

Details of incidents

  • Police were called at 09:35 BST to reports of a suspicious package delivered to a government mail screening service on Bidders Street, Newham. The contents were found to be not noxious or suspicious
  • Police were called at 12:30 after a suspicious package was delivered to Lord Ahmed at the Houses of Parliament, causing a security alert. The contents of the package are being examined
  • Police were called at 12:45 to reports of a package delivered to a mosque in High Road, Leyton. The contents were found to be not noxious or suspicious
  • Police were called at 14:45 to reports of a suspicious package delivered to a Muslim welfare centre at Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park
  • Police were called at 23:20 to reports of a package delivered to an Islamic community centre in Clyde Road, Tottenham. The contents were found to be not noxious or suspicious

Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of Muslim Welfare House, Finsbury Park, said the building had to be evacuated for more than two hours when the package - which bore a Sheffield postmark - was discovered.

He said: "My colleague tried to open it and a little bit of white powder came out - we thought it could be anthrax.

"There were about 150 people here, so we had to go outside. We had to tell people coming here for prayer to go elsewhere.

"We have never had any trouble before. After the Brexit referendum, the environment is more hostile towards foreigners."

Mr Kacimi said he received a phone call from Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, his local MP, in the wake of the incident.

He said: "He and the police, the local council, they have all been very good. They want us to feel reassured but it is obviously very scary."

Image caption Lord Ahmed was also sent a note with racist abuse written on it

Lord Ahmed earlier told the BBC that the white powder went all over his clothes.

He said: "It was frightening, and I think that even more than it being frightening for me, it was a big shock for everyone who was around me because security personnel came and told everyone to be calm and remain seated, and you could see the police officers with guns."

There have been no reports of illnesses as a result of contact with the powder.

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