Murder charge after Muslim girl attacked on way back to mosque

A 22-year-old man has been charged with murder over the death of a teenage Muslim girl who was attacked during a breakfast break from an all-night prayer session at her mosque in Virginia.

Darwin Martinez Torres, of Sterling, was arraigned in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and ordered held without bail pending a July 19 court appearance.

The girl and her friends were walking back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque from a McDonald's in the Sterling area between 3am and 4am local time on Sunday when a man drove up and some kind of altercation ensued, according to police and the mosque.

According to WRC-TV in Washington, the teenager fell as the girls ran, and only later did they realise that she was not among them.

During an intense search for the girl, an officer stopped a car being driven suspiciously on Sunday and the driver, later identified as Martinez Torres, was taken into custody, police said.

WRC-TV reported that Martinez Torres was questioned near the scene of the attack, and led officers several miles away to a retention pond across the street from his apartment complex where a female body, believed to be the girl's, was found at about 3pm on Sunday.

"What investigators told the father and the mother, he hit her in the head and put her in the car and he threw her in the water," said family friend Abas Sherif.

ADAMS is one of the largest mosques in the country, and is particularly busy during Ramadan.

Observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, and since Ramadan this year overlaps with the summer solstice, and sunrise occurs well before 6am, some Muslims will eat large meals in pre-dawn hours.

"We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event," the society said in the news release.

Darwin A. Martinez Torres, 22. Picture: AP

"It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth."

It said the society was enlisting licensed counsellors to assist anyone in need.

A statement by Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates, a national legal and educational organisation for American Muslims, said the tragedy "strikes the heart of the strong community of the ADAMS Centre and of Fairfax".

"We urge both local and federal authorities to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation into all possible motives for this gruesome crime," Ahussain said.

Fairfax County police department tweeted on Monday: "We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime."

- PA

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