White powder sent to 2 Edmonton mosques being investigated by hate crimes unit

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s Muslim community reacts to mosques targeted with white powder'
Edmonton’s Muslim community reacts to mosques targeted with white powder
Many people in Edmonton's Muslim community are upset after two mosques were sent a package with an unknown white powder. Chris Chacon has more on how some in the community are trying to heal – Apr 22, 2022

Two possible anthrax scares at mosques in Edmonton are being investigated by the EPS hate crime and violent extremism unit.

Packages containing white powder were mailed to two Edmonton mosques over the past week, Edmonton police confirmed Thursday afternoon.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims issued a statement, calling it an apparent anthrax scare.

The first incident happened last Friday at a mosque near 43 Street and 33 Avenue in Mill Woods, where the NCCM said a mosque employee opened a package.

“Immediately, a white powder substance landed on their skin and clothes,” a statement from the NCCM said.

Read more: Edmonton committee unanimously approves anti-racism strategy

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The second was found on Thursday at a mosque in the area of 61 Avenue and 172 Street in west Edmonton.

“A white powder also burst out when the package was opened and is currently being analyzed by the authorities,” the NCCM said while condemning the acts.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services said crews were called by Edmonton police just after noon to a suspicious package at the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) in the Callingwood area.

Fire crews, including the HazMat team, arrived at the Lessard Shopping Centre a few minutes later, where the building was evacuated and the package was isolated.

“The substance was determined to be coffee creamer,” EFRS said in an email. Edmonton police also said the white powder in both incidents was deemed to be an innocuous substance.

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“While we do not want members of our community to unduly panic, we want to be clear that this is concerning. If anyone receives a suspicious package, please call 911 or the non-emergency line,” the NCCM said.

Said Omar, Alberta advocacy officer for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said the timing is especially unfortunate.

“I’m honestly disappointed and frustrated that such an incident is occurring on the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.

Ramadan began on April 1 and ends May 1 this year. It’s a time of prayer, self-reflection and fasting from sunrise to sunset.

Read more: Ramadan 101: Answering your questions about ‘the best time of the year’

Omar said mosques are at capacity during the holy month, explaining many Muslims will congregate at the facilities for prayers, fellowship and to break their fast.

“Having this happen during the month of Ramadan, we believe it creates panic and it creates frustration amongst the community,” he said.

In a post on Twitter Friday, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he is disturbed by the recent threats.

“Islamophobia has no place here. Every single Muslim Edmontonian deserves to feel safe in our city, and everywhere. I strongly condemn this incident and we all must tackle hate in Edmonton together.”

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Omar said some mosques have taken extra measures such as locking doors that would otherwise be open, and leaders are in communication about safety measures.

“To the people that are behind this, I just want to say to them that your intimidation is not working: the Muslim community is strong here in Edmonton.

Read more: Anthrax can live in soil for as long as 50 years before it kills grazing animals: experts

Two decades ago, anthrax scares killed several people in the United States.

In the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, anonymous letters laced with deadly anthrax spores began arriving at media companies and congressional offices.

Contact with the spores can cause severe illness. Over the ensuing months, five Americans died from inhaling anthrax and 17 others were infected after exposure.

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Donald Trump Jr.’s wife taken to hospital after white powder delivered to home, police investigating

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