LONDON: A car crashed into a crowd near a mosque in the UK in a suspected hate crime incident which left three persons injured, prompting Scotland Yard to launch a probe.
The Metropolitan Police were called to the Al-majlis Al-Hussaini Muslim prayer centre in Cricklewood to reports of the collision with a "number of pedestrians" on Oxgate Lane.
Two people in their twenties suffered minor injuries and a man in his fifties remains in hospital as he is treated for a serious leg injury.
"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," a Met Police statement said.
A spokesperson for the Hussaini Association, which had been holding a series of lectures at the mosque, said: "We are in deep shock at such an attack taking place on our community.
"We remain proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society and as such we remain unintimidated".
The car failed to stop at the scene and enquiries are underway to trace the driver and occupants, the police said.
Just before the collision, the Islamic centre had been informed of occupants in a car behaving anti-socially, drinking and allegedly using drugs.
The occupants of the car – three men and a woman all aged in their mid-twenties – were asked to leave the private car park.
The car then drove around the centre and the occupants were involved in a confrontation with a large group of people visiting the centre.
Some witnesses reported hearing the phrase "dirty Muslims" being hurled from inside the vehicle.
"Words were exchanged and comments of an Islamophobic nature were allegedly made by the group in the car," the Met Police said.
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.
No arrests have been made in the case so far as police appealed for information from the public.
"We are treating this incident very seriously and a number of enquiries are underway to trace the car and those involved," said Detective Sergeant (DS) Kelly Schonhage from the Met Police's local Brent division.
"Enquiries into the full circumstances of the collision are ongoing.
If you were there at the time and have information I would urge you to contact police with information.
Extra neighbourhood police patrols have been stepped up in the area and officers will be on hand to speak with those in the local community," she said.
British police describe hate crimes as those perceived as motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic and monitor it under five strands – race or ethnicity; religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; or transgender identity.
"The Met have long since recognised the impact of hate crime on communities and the hidden nature of this crime, which remains largely under-reported.
"The MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) stands together with policing partners, colleagues and groups to investigate all hate crime allegations, support victims and their families, and bring perpetrators to justice," a police statement added.