Gardaí have confirmed that they are investigating a possible hate or racist motive behind an alleged assault on two Muslim men in Limerick.
The men were walking to the Al Furqan Mosque on Windmill Street on Sunday evening when they say they were attacked by three individuals.
It is alleged the men were punched and kicked in the assault, which occurred at around 8pm.
Garda sources confirmed to the Irish Examiner that officers are investigating a “potential racist or hate motive” behind the attack.
Officers at Henry Street Garda Station are appealing for information, which happened on what was the first night of Ramadan, the holy month in Islam.
Gardaí are investigating suspicions the three men may have been waiting for the pair to arrive before jumping them.
The victims received a number of blows and were taken to University Hospital Limerick, where they were treated and then released.
Local Fianna Fáil election candidate Abul Kalam Azad Talukder said he was contacted by a friend of the victims and that he had visited and spoken to them: “They are getting better, but they are very upset.”
He said the men, aged in their 30s and 40s, are asylum seekers and originally from Afghanistan.
Asked did the men inform officers that they believed it was a racist or hate-motivated attack, Mr Talukder said: “Yes, they told that to the gardaí.”
He said the wider Muslim community is in shock:
“The community is very worried, some people are scared to go to the mosque.”
Mr Talukder said there was a further incident in Limerick on Thursday evening in which, he claimed, a Muslim man, aged in his late 30s, was verbally and physically assaulted.
“It happened on Steamboat Quay on the Dock Road. The man was in his car and somebody came over and knocked on his window in a car park.
“He was talking to him and saying ‘what are you doing here, why you not go home?’. Then he pulled open the door, the door was not locked and started punching him. He called the gardaí.”
He further claimed there was another incident about a month ago when some Muslim women were attacked in the People’s Park.
He said the attacks are concerning but wanted to emphasise how supportive most people in Limerick are: “Yes, the attacks are worrying, but in the first incident some people came along and helped the men.”
Mr Talukder added: “I tell people that not everyone is bad, they are a small minority. We try to tell the community that there’s more good people and that there is good support to the community.”
In a statement on the alleged attack near the mosque, a Garda spokesman said: “Two males in their 30s and 40s alleged they were assaulted by three males. Both males were taken to hospital for minor injuries.”
“No arrests have been made, and investigations are ongoing,” the spokesman added.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Henry Street Garda Station at 061-20422.