Charges laid after attempted break-in at Toronto mosque

Two people are now facing charges after allegedly attempting to break into a Toronto mosque and threatening building staff, police say.

The incident happened around 11:50 a.m. from the Islamic Institute of Toronto at 1630 Neilson Rd, near Morningside Avenue and Finch Avenue East.

In a news release issued Wednesday, police said a man and a woman were “under the influence of illicit drugs” when they noticed keys in the door of the building and tried to get inside.

A staff member confronted them, police say, and that’s when the man held up an object and threatened to “blow up” the building. That object was later found to be a set of keys, according to the release.

The woman also pointed her fingers in the shape of a gun and threatened to shoot a person on site, police say.

Omar Essawi told CBC News on Tuesday that he was visiting the mosque with his business partner at the time of the incident.

“We noticed two people — a white male and a white female — attempting to enter the front of the building,” Essawi said.

“They got aggressive with regards to trying to get in the building and started kicking the doors,” Essawi said.

“My business partner drove around to ask if they needed help, to which the male responded he was here to detonate an explosive,” he said.

At that point, Essawi called police.

While he was on the phone with the police, the woman began approaching Essawi making a gun gesture with her fingers, he said.

“Thankfully police arrived, intercepted her, and arrested them both,” he said.

Police announced Wednesday that a 24-year-old man from Toronto and a 22-year-old woman of no fixed address have been charged with breaking and entering, threatening death, and mischief to property endangering life.

Both were set to appear in court Wednesday.

“This remains an active investigation led by 42 Division’s Major Crime Unit and we would ask people not to speculate on the motive until the full facts are uncovered,” police said in a statement.

“At this time, there is no evidence to suggest this is hate motivated but the service recognizes that this incident has understandably caused concern in communities. We want to assure everyone we have engaged our Hate Crime Unit out of an abundance of caution and we will continue to support members of the Institute and the wider community.”

The mosque released a statement Tuesday, calling for this incident to be investigated as a potentially hate-motivated crime.

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