UK police have launched a hate crime investigation after a group dressed in Ku Klux Klan outfits posed a threat outside an Islamic center in Newtownards, Northern Ireland.
“We are treating this as a hate crime,” Northern Ireland Police Inspector Richard Murray from the Police Service of Northern Ireland said in a statement on Tuesday.
A picture published on social media showed the group of nine people dressed in Klan outfits, who were also carrying crucifixes and had fists risen, in Newtownards’ Greenwell Street close to the Bangladesh Islamic Centre on Saturday night.
British media reported that earlier there had been graffiti written on the wall of the centre and a pig’s head was left on the centre’s doorstep.
The group then went to a pub where they posed for pictures with Sharon Mellor, who was there.
Mellor is a far-right extremist linked to Tony Martin, leader of the UK-based fascist political party National Front, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
She claimed the group were “random strangers”. “A few blokes … no idea who they were,” she told the paper.
The paper noted that Mellor had talked about having tried to set fire to the Islamic centre in the town three years ago.
The newspaper published a picture of Mellor with one of the members of the KKK who had blood spattered on his costume.
One of the pubs the group visited on Saturday night claimed the group used force to enter the bar.
“They were told by bar staff that they would not be served. They remained in the pub for five minutes, unserved, and then left,” a spokesman for The Spirit Merchant said.
Earlier this year, an authority on counter-terrorism had sounded the alarm about the growing threat posed by domestic right-wing terrorists in the UK.
Mark Rowley, the former chief of Metropolitan counter-terrorism unit, warned that white supremacists were promoting terrorism and violence.
Experts say Donald Trump’s rise to presidency in the United States has currently given momentum to right-wing perpetrators of violence, advocates of racist ideology and neo-Nazism.