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    Graffiti at California mosques investigated as hate crimes

    HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Vandals spray-painted graffiti about Jesus at two mosques in the Southern California city of Hawthorne and left a device that looked like a hand grenade in one of the driveways, leading police to investigate both incidents as hate crimes.

    The vandalism and other recent attacks against mosques and Muslims in California come after a couple who federal officials say were inspired by Islamist extremists killed 14 people at a holiday luncheon in San Bernardino on Dec. 2.

    Some Muslims in California and beyond have worried about potential reprisals.

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    On Sunday, a bomb squad was called and the area around the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque was evacuated after the device was discovered around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, police said in a statement.

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    Investigators determined the device was a plastic replica of a hand grenade. The word ‘‘Jesus’’ was sprayed in white paint on the mosque’s fence.

    Officers received another call that the phrase ‘‘Jesus is the way’’ was spray-painted at the Islamic Center of Hawthorne.

    Associated Press