A pop bottle bomb hurled outside a Glendale mosque landed close to an Islamic religious leader involved in a high-profile lawsuit against Tempe-based US Airways.
Glendale police spokesman Sgt. Jim Toomey said the incident occurred 1 a.m. Monday outside the Albanian American Islamic Center at 67th Avenue and Greenway Road when Imam Didmar Faja, head of the center, and another mosque official were standing outside the mosque. The bottle, which contained chemicals, exploded 20 to 25 feet away. No one was hurt, and there were no other eyewitnesses.
Toomey said investigators are treating the incident as a possible hate crime, although it could be a case of mischief.
“Right now we’re proceeding as though this was religiously motivated,” Toomey said. “There was no shouting or no declaration indicating any purpose.”
Faja and the mosque official told police they saw a couple of 20-to-25-year-old men drive by in a red two-door car, possibly a 1995 or 1996 Honda.
Faja is one of six imams involved in a discrimination lawsuit against US Airways over an incident last fall, when they were kicked off a flight to Phoenix by federal marshals in Minneapolis. They were handcuffed, detained and questioned for nearly six hours before being released.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic civil liberties group, released a statement urging law enforcement authorities to probe Monday’s incident.
“We appreciate the professional response of local law enforcement authorities and urge the FBI to add its resources to the investigation,” council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said.
A Valley official from the Islamic organization said the imam had recently received death threats.
“Muslims have been targets after 9/11 here in Arizona and nationwide,” said Mohammed Abuhannoud, civil rights director at the Arizona chapter. “It’s difficult to believe it’s a coincidence that someone threw something at that location at that time.”
Toomey said there were four similar incidents over the last several days in the neighborhood at private residences.
“We don’t know what that tells us just yet but it may support the idea that some young men are throwing this indiscriminately,” he said. “No one was injured in those incidents but these appeared similar in ammunition.”