LONDON (AP) — British police on Friday launched a counter-terrorism probe after an explosion near a mosque in central England. No injuries were reported in the blast, which came in the wake of heightened religious tensions in the U.K. over the killing of a British soldier.
Residents in the town of Tipton reported hearing a loud bang and finding nails scattered near the Kanz-ul-Iman Muslim Welfare Association Central Jamia mosque, according to West Midlands Police.
The blast, which occurred around 1 p.m. local time, appeared to have happened shortly before Friday prayers were expected to begin. The area around the mosque was evacuated as a precaution as army bomb disposal experts checked the scene for debris.
Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Cann told reporters that the location and timing of the explosion suggested that it was an act of terrorism.
"We can't say for definite the explosion was intended to damage the mosque — but the most likely conclusion is it was intended to cause serious harm to people or property," Cann said.
Officials at the mosque condemned the attack as a "senseless and mindless act."
The incident came the same day as the funeral of soldier Lee Rigby, who was killed in broad daylight by alleged Islamic extremists on a London street.
That attack in May triggered a spike in religious tensions, and police have reported an increase in attacks against mosques and Muslim community centers in the subsequent weeks.
Last month, a home-made explosive device was found near a mosque in Walsall, not far from Tipton. Police are still investigating that incident, which did not cause injuries but forced the evacuation of some 150 people from their homes.