UK
12/07/2013 12:02 BST | Updated 12/07/2013 15:39 BST

Police Suspect Terrorist Attack After 'Nail Bomb' Explosion Near Tipton Mosque

Police are investigating a suspected nail bomb attack after reports of "a loud bang" close to a mosque in the Black Country - which is being treated as a "terrorist incident".

Officers were called to Binfield Street in Tipton at about 1pm and have since cordoned off the area, while they investigate the cause of the explosion. There are no reports of any injuries.

Residents have reported finding nails among the debris in the area near the Kanz-ul-Iman Muslim Welfare Association Central Jamia Mosque.

tipton mosque

Police are investigating a suspected nail bomb attack in Tipton

Counter-terrorism officers have launched an investigation. A West Midlands Police spokesman said: "Police have been called to Binfield Street in Tipton this afternoon following reports of a loud bang.

"A cordon has been set up and the immediate area is being evacuated as a precautionary measure while police investigate what caused it.

"Some residents have reported finding debris in the area and finding nails. This is being investigated by forensic officers at the scene."

In a joint statement, the board of trustees and management committee of the Kanz Ul Iman Masjid mosque said: "We express our deep shock and utter dismay regarding the incident that has occurred this afternoon. We jointly on behalf of the local community condemn this senseless and mindless act.

"It's a blessing from God that thankfully no-one was injured in the blast.

"We call for calm and strongly urge the community not to let this incident divide us and cause disharmony. We stand united, stand together in the aftermath of this mindless act. We have worked hard to build good community relations and will not allow this incident to divide us or undermine cohesion in the borough.

"We are working closely with the police with their ongoing investigation seeking reassurance to make the scene as safe and secure as soon as possible and track down the perpetrators.

"We ask the media to be sensitive and to deal with this incident prudently and sensibly."

Local MP Richard Burden tweeted:

Tipton Green councillor Ian Jones said residents in the area described hearing a "loud thud".

Councillor Syeda Amina Khatun said she was not aware of any previous attacks on the mosque.

"The explosion has gone off on the disused railway line behind the mosque," she said.

"There are lots of police around so there must be want for them to be here.

"The whole estate has been blocked off. People are surprised that something like this has happened."

Dozens of local people who were asked to leave their homes inside the sealed-off area gathered at several cordons along Dudley Port, Tipton, where police were giving out bottles of water to families with young children.

Local resident Rob Abbey, who lives a few hundred yards from the mosque, said the explosion sounded "very, very loud" but he had no idea what it was at the time.

The 35-year-old said: "I was just leaving to go to the park when I heard it.

"I wasn't given any choice about leaving and I'm told it may be up to several hours before we're allowed back."

Anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area is urged to call police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

West Midlands Police are still investigating an explosion which occurred near a mosque in the Caldmore area of Walsall last month.

The remains of a home-made explosive device were found on June 22 in an alleyway adjoining the Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre in Rutter Street, Caldmore.

The earlier incident, in which no-one was injured, forced the overnight evacuation of around 150 people from their homes in the surrounding area.

There was condemnation of the attack from Muslim groups. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, called on people not to allow terrorism to divide the community.

He said: "I condemn the terrorist attack on the Kanz-ul-Iman Muslim Welfare Association Central Jamia Mosque in Tipton, West Midlands and urge all communities to remain calm and support the police to bring the people responsible to justice.

"Today has been a difficult day for our country with the funeral of Fusilier Lee Rigby taking place in Bury and this attack against Muslims and our mosques.

"Like we will not let terrorism divide us when Lee Rigby was killed, we will not allow these thugs and terrorists to divide Muslims from wider society.

"With Ramadhan happening for the next four weeks I would urge mosques to step up security and report anything suspicious to the police.

"Finally we will not be frightened by these terrorists from whatever background they come from, they will be defeated."

The Muslim Council of Britain told HuffPost UK it was "monitoring unfolding developments in Tipton".

"This is the second such incident after a mosque in neighbouring Walsall was the subject of a makeshift bomb attack. We are heartened by the decision by the Metropolitan Police enhanced police presence around Mosques during Ramadan to reassure communities and ensure public safety. We hope this is being done at a national level."