A Muslim teenager was assaulted and murdered in the early hours of Sunday while walking home after prayers at a mosque near Washington.
The death of Nabra Hassanen, 17, of Reston, northern Virginia, surprised the local community. Police have charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres with her murder.
A possible hate crime is one of the possible reasons under investigation, the Washington Post reported. Nabra of the mother, Sawsan Gazzar, he told the newspaper: “I think it had to do with the way he was dressed, and the fact that she is Muslim. Why kill a child? What did my daughter do to deserve this?”
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The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (Adams) mosque in Sterling, the largest in northern Virginia, has a extra late-night prayers during the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan. Nabra was, according to reports, four or five teenagers who had come out of the mosque in the early hours of Sunday. It was not unusual for the faithful to walk after night fall, in what is normally a safe neighborhood.
A Fairfax county police statement said: “An investigation determined that he was walking down the street with a group of friends when they got into a dispute with a man in a car. It seems that the suspect, Darwin, A MartÃnez Torres, 22, of Sterling, got out of his car and assaulted the victim. Her friends could not find her and called the police for help.”
Nabra was reported as missing around 4 in the morning. A police helicopter, patrol officers and search and rescue teams joined the hunt. “While the search, one of the officers saw a car driving suspiciously in the area and arrested,” the statement added. “The driver, later identified as Martinez Torres, was detained as a suspect.”
About 3 in the afternoon the body of a girl believed to be Nabra was found in a pond in Sterling. A baseball bat was found nearby, police said. Detectives later obtained a murder warrant against MartÃnez Torres.
Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer and author, told the Washington Post that he and his wife were in the mosque at the same time as Nabra and that his death has struck fear in the local Islamic community. “People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslims daughters,” he was quoted as saying.
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A local congresswoman Barbara Comstock, said: “We are heartbroken and horrified by the news of the brutal murder of a beautiful young woman of 17 years old girl. We know that there is no greater pain for any parent and the Chip and I extend our prayers to his family and loved ones at this difficult time and all of the Adams Center of the community.”
A statement of the Adams mosque, said: “We are devastated and heartbroken that our community and is subjected to processes of this traumatic event. It is a time for us to pray together and care for our young people. Adams has licensed counselors on site to help any person in need of advice during these difficult times.”
In a page from crowdfunding to support Nabra the family, the donations have come to be more than $55,000 before midnight.
A report of the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that anti-Muslim hate crime incidents has increased significantly in the year 2015 and the increase of a further 44%, from 180 to 260, in the year 2016. Human rights groups have called Donald Trump to be more forceful in speaking out against the violent acts of intolerance.