Police are investigating the assault and murder early Sunday of a Muslim teenager on her way home from prayers at a mosque in northern Virginia, a half hour’s drive from Washington DC.
The body of the girl — apparently Nabra Hassanen, 17 — was found at around 3 p.m. dumped in a pond in the town of Sterling, a ten-minute drive from her hometown of Reston, the Washington Post reported Monday.
An autopsy was to be carried out to confirm her identity and help determine the cause of death.
A 22-year-old man, Darwin A Martinez Torres, who police said had been “driving suspiciously in the area,” was charged with the girl’s murder.
Police said Monday they were not investigating the murder as a hate crime, contradicting some earlier reports.
— Miss Myrtle (@MissMyrtle2) June 19, 2017
Friends and worshipers at the mosque, known as the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, identified the teen as Hassanen, from Reston, who had disappeared for several hours Sunday.
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.” 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 center plaza in the early hours of Monday after late-night prayers at the mosque, according to accounts by police and worshipers.
“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 a.m. and the remains were found at a nearby pond around 3 p.m.
A Fairfax county police statement said, “An investigation determined she was walking outside with a group of friends when they got into a dispute with a man in a car. It appears the suspect, Darwin A Martinez Torres, 22, of Sterling, got out of his car and assaulted the victim. Her friends could not find her and police were called to help.”
Hassanen’s mother told the Washington Post that according to detectives, Nabra had been hit with a metal bat.
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.
The murder comes amid several attacks on Muslims in recent weeks.
On Sunday night, in England, one man was killed and eight people were wounded when a van driver — described as white — ran into pedestrians near the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London. Police are treating that incident as a terrorist attack.
Scotland Yard's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu: This is being treated as a terrorist attack. An attack on London, all Londonders.
— Dominic Casciani (@BBCDomC) June 19, 2017
Members of the public restrained the van driver, 48, who was subsequently arrested and will undergo psychiatric assessment, police said.
— ITV News (@itvnews) June 19, 2017
In late May, two people were killed and another injured by a man they tried to reason with on a Portland, Oregon, train, who was shouting racist obscenities at two girls, one of them wearing a hijab. Jeremy Christian, 35, has been charged with 15 counts, including murder, The Oregonian reported.
Earlier this month, around 100 Muslims gathered close to Trump Tower before breaking their Ramadan fast to protest against what they say is the US president’s Islamophobic rhetoric.