Nashua police said Monday that three juveniles suspected of throwing a rock into the window of a mosque over the weekend were reportedly hurling rocks at a city street sign in the same neighborhood earlier that night.
Police said they were continuing to investigate the rock-throwing incident that damaged a window at the Islamic Society of Greater Nashua’s mosque, a rented space in a commercial area on Pine Street. Worshipers were inside Sunday night preparing to pray on the eve of one of the holiest days of the Muslim year, Eid al-Adha.
The incident happened about 8:15 p.m. on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The vandalism spurred concerns from the Muslim community that the rock-throwing was a retaliatory hate crime.
Lieutenant Craig Allard said Monday that police are looking into the act as a possible hate crime. However, he said, no graffiti or notes were left at the scene that would explicitly identify the incident in that fashion.
“It’s simply a rock through a window, no other sayings, no writings, nothing like that,’’ he said. “But due to the fact that it was on 9/11 and on the anniversary, that is a direction the investigation would go into.’’
Muhammad Akbar, president of the mosque, said three rocks were thrown at a double-paned window that had an LED sign with a crawl announcing the Muslim community’s name and phone number.
The third rock smashed through both panes and nearly hit a man inside. He said the man, a Rohingya refugee who speaks little English, was shaken.
“It went past his ear,” Akbar said. “Half an inch or an inch, he would have been hit, definitely.”
Allard said detectives are hoping surveillance video from the neighborhood, made up largely of factories and warehouses, will help in identifying the teens.
He said that about 20 minutes before the rock slammed into the mosque’s window, police were called about three teenagers throwing rocks at signs in Mine Falls Park, a city park on the banks of the Nashua River.
Police said the investigation was ongoing and asked anyone with information to contact them at 603-594-3500, or by calling the Nashua Crime Line at 603-589-1665.
The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in a statement Sunday night called for state and federal officials to investigate the incident as a “possible hate crime.”
“Whenever any house of worship is attacked in this manner, law enforcement authorities should investigate a possible bias motive for the crime,” executive director John Robbins said in the statement.
Akbar said he was pleased that some 80 people came to the mosque’s open house last Friday, and that Alderman Tom Lopez quickly e-mailed to offer help and express support.
“We were overwhelmed by the support of the community, and we were very grateful,” he said.
The Nashua mosque community is about three years old and is already outgrowing its second worship space, Akbar said. It typically draws 150 to 200 people to pray on Fridays. About 250 attended Eid al-Adha prayers Monday morning.