New York police are searching for a suspect after a teenager was attacked for wearing a turban on a bus, in a suspected hate crime.
A 19-year-old Sikh man was attacked on a bus in New York City on Sunday morning in the area of 118 Street and Liberty Avenue in the borough of Queens, according to police.
The assailant allegedly approached the teenager on the bus, and tried to remove his turban, telling him, “We don’t wear that in this country,” police said.
The suspect then punched the 19-year-old in the back of the head, face and back multiple times before fleeing along Liberty Avenue, police said.
The assault left the victim with “minor laceration and pain,” police said, but no further injuries were reported and the victim refused further medical treatment.
The NYPD Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the incident.
The suspect is described as a man between 25 and 35 years old, with a dark complexion, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with brown eyes and black hair, wearing blue jeans and sneakers.
The Sikh Coalition, a national Sikh faith organisation based in New York, said it was in contact with the victim and offering him support.
The attack came amid fears of an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the US following the attack by Hamas militants on Israel, which saw 1,400 Israelis killed, and many more injured, while dozens were taken captive across the Gaza border.
More than 2,800 Palestinians have also been killed since fighting broke out on 7 October.
“We thank allies from across all communities who have spoken out, and urge vigilance for all given the current climate—especially given the heartbreaking recent news out of Illinois,” the Sikh Coalition said in a statement.
In a separate incident, Joseph Czuba, 71, was arrested on Saturday morning after allegedly stabbing six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume 26 times and the little boy’s 32-year-old mother Hanaan Shahin more than 12 times, in an attack in Illinois police say was sparked by the Israel-Hamas war.
Wadea, a Palestinian-American, died in hospital, while his mother is in serious condition but is expected to survive.
The 71-year-old allegedly knocked on his tenants’ door before shouting “You Muslims must die” and stabbing the child and his mother.
Police said that the boy and his mother were “targeted” due to their Muslim faith and the “ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis”.
At his court appearance, prosecutors said that Mr Czuba had been listening to right-wing talk radio coverage of the Israel-Hamas war before the attack, causing him to become increasingly concerned for his safety, reported The Chicago Sun-Times.
Czuba was charged with a hate crime, as well as first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated battery.
“As we stand alongside our allies from all communities, we will continue to insist that no one should have to fear for their personal safety while simply existing in public,” The Sikh Coalition told NBC News.
Meanwhile, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Mark Stewart has said that the department has seen some recent hate crimes in the city fueled by the Israel-Hamas war and tensions in the Middle East, NBC New York reported.
“We don’t tolerate it,” Mr Stewart said. “We don’t condone it.”
The Justice Department has also recently raised the alarm bell regarding a spike in anti-Muslim hate crime, warning this weekend’s attack on six-year-old Wadea will “raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities” in the US “with regard to hate-fueled violence”.
The department said it is focused on “protecting the safety and the civil rights of every person in this country.”
“We will use every legal authority at our disposal to bring to justice those who perpetrate illegal acts of hate. No one in the United States of America should have to live in fear of violence because of how they worship or where they or their family come from,” the department added.
Speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in San Diego, California, on Sunday, Mr Wray warned of the increased risk of “lone actors” carrying out terror attacks in the US in the vein of those carried out by Hamas in Israel.
“In this heightened environment, there’s no question we’re seeing an increase in reported threats, especially for lone actors who may take inspiration from recent events to commit violence of their own,” he said.
He also urged people to remain vigilant and said the bureau is committed to confronting threats both in the US and overseas.