A 17-year-old Muslim-American girl was beaten and abducted after leaving a mosque in Virginia on Sunday by a man who police later arrested on suspicion of murder after her body was found dumped in a pond, authorities said.
The attack spurred an outpouring of grief and horror in a Muslim community that has been gathering to pray at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque about 50km outside Washington in observance of the last 10 days of Ramadan.
The attack happened early on Sunday after the victim and several friends walking outside the mosque got into a dispute with a motorist in the community of Sterling, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement.
At one point, the motorist got out of his car and assaulted the girl, police said.
The teen was reported missing by her friends, who scattered during the attack and could not find her afterward, touching off an hours-long search by authorities in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
At about 3pm, the remains of a female believed to be the victim were found in a pond in Sterling, police said.
During the search for the missing teenager, authorities stopped a motorist “driving suspiciously in the area” and arrested the driver, later identified as Darwin Martinez Torres, 22.
Police obtained a murder warrant that charges Torres with her death, the Fairfax County Police Department said.
A police spokeswoman told reporters the attack followed some sort of dispute between the man and the girls and authorities had not ruled out hate as a motivation for the attack.
The number of anti-Muslim bias incidents in the US last year jumped to 2,213, a 57 percent increase from 2015’s 1,409, the Council on American-Islamic Relations advocacy group said in a report last month.
While the group had been seeing a rise in anti-Muslim incidents prior to US President Donald Trump’s stunning rise in last year’s presidential primaries and November election victory, it said the acceleration in bias incidents was due in part to Trump’s focus on militant Muslim groups and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Isra Chaker, a person who said on Facebook that she was close to a family friend of the victim in the Virginia incident, said the driver came out with a baseball bat and began swinging it at the girls.
“She then went missing (presumably kidnapped/moved by the suspect) and was found dead this afternoon,” Chaker said.
An online fundraiser for the girl’s family had raised US$61,606 by Sunday evening.
Police said a medical examiner is to conduct an autopsy to confirm the victim’s identity and cause of death, although detectives believe the body found in the pond was the missing girl.
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