A 17-year-old Muslim girl was assaulted, abducted and killed as she was travelling home in Virginia on Sunday, after attending her local mosque.
The girl, named locally as Nabra Hassanen of Reston, had been attending the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in observance of the last 10 days of Ramadan when the attack happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Nabra was walking home from with several friends when they were confronted by a motorist. At one point the man got out of his car and assaulted the girl, according to police.
The teenagers scattered during the attack but were unable to find Nabra afterwards. She was reported missing to police, sparking an hours-long search by authorities in Fairfax and Loudon counties.
A body was found in a pond in the Sterling area at around 3pm. An autopsy is yet to be conducted by a medical examiner, but police believe the remains are of the missing teenager.
A 22-year-old man named Darwin Martinez Torres was stopped during the police search for “driving suspiciously in the area” and charged with murder, Fairfax County Police Department said.
Police have not ruled out hate as a motivation for the attack.
Detectives told Nabra’s mother that the teenager was struck with a metal bat, the Washington Post reported.
“I can’t think of a worse instance to occur than the loss of a 17-year-old on Father’s Day, as the father of a 17-year-old myself,” Michael Chapman, Sheriff of Loudoun County said.
Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer, told the newspaper the attack had sent fear through the Muslim community in northern Virginia: “People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters.”
A crowd-funding campaign to support the family of Nabra has already raised more than $115,700 (£90,300).
The number of anti-Muslim bias incidents in the United States jumped 57 per cent in 2016 to 2,213, up from 1,409 in 2015, 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 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 Mr Trump’s focus on militant Islamist groups and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Muslim worshippers were targeted in a suspected terror attack in London on Sunday night. One man was killed and eight others were injured when a van collided with pedestrians near a mosque in Finsbury Park, north London.
British counter terror police are investigating the incident.