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Muslim teen found dead after abduction outside Virginia mosque

Posted at 2:48 PM, Jun 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-19 15:56:06-04

A Muslim teenager is missing and believed dead after she was abducted by a man as she and her friends walked from a Northern Virginia mosque. A body of a young woman, who authorities believe to be Nabra Hassanen, 17, was found Sunday in a pond in Sterling, Virginia, police said.

Nabra Mohmod Hassanen left the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center mosque to grab a bite to eat with friends, after a late-night Ramadan prayer before their fast. PHOTO: Launch for Good

The same day police arrested a 22-year-old Sterling man after a traffic stop and charged him with her murder, said Tawny Wright, spokeswoman for Fairfax County Police.

Authorities are waiting for the medical examiner to make a final determination of the girl's identity and how she died before releasing her name, Wright said. But a statement sent to CNN from the Virginia Lt. Governor's office said that "detectives and relatives believe the body found is Nabra Hassanen."

While the episode has shaken the local Muslim community, Fairfax police say they are not investigating the girl's killing as a hate crime.

Wright told CNN that "detectives didn't receive an indication during their interviews" that the attack was a targeted or racially biased incident.

Later, police released a statement which said they believe road rage was the case.

"This tragic case appears to be the result of a road rage incident involving the suspect, who was driving and who is now charged with murder, and a group of teenagers who was walking and riding bikes in and along a roadway," police said. "Our investigation at this point in no way indicates the victim was targeted because of her race or religion."

Friends were walking to mosque for Ramadan

Police began searching for the girl around 4 a.m. Sunday after they received reports from a group of teenagers saying their friend was missing, Wright said.

The teens told police they'd been walking from a McDonalds to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center for Ramadan prayer when they ended up in a dispute with a man driving in a car, Wright told CNN.

The mosque holds several prayers throughout the night during the celebration of Ramadan, according to Tajul Islam, a receptionist at the ADAMS Center. The group of friends had left the mosque to eat before the next fast began when they were attacked.

Darwin Martinez Torres, 22

The man allegedly got out of the car and assaulted the 17-year-old girl as her friends ran to the mosque, where they called police, Wright said.

As Fairfax County Police and the Loudon County Sheriff's Office searched the area early Sunday, police stopped a man who was "driving suspiciously," Wright said.

Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, was taken into custody as a suspect in the case and subsequently charged with murder, Wright said.

Torres couldn't be reached for comment and CNN could not determine if he has retained a lawyer.

Detectives found the body, thought to be the girl's, in the pond around 3 p.m. Sunday.

Fairfax and Loudon County law enforcement search for missing teen.

Timing of attack raising concerns

Although authorities say they're not investigating it as a possible hate crime, the timing of the attack -- coming amidst a recent spike in attacks on Muslims -- has raised concerns in the community.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Council on American Islamic Relations, told CNN that his organization will be calling for a thorough investigation of a possible biased motive.

"We'd like to hear from the witnesses to the initial attack as to whether they heard any biased statements," Hooper said. "Even if not, why is this individual targeting a group of people dressed in Muslim attire?

"Would they have been targeted if they hadn't been of a certain faith or ethnicity? These are the kinds of questions we ask," he said.

The attack happened hours before a man drove a van into a crowd of worshipers at a mosque in London.

"We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event," said the ADAMS Center in a statement. "It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth."

A crowdfunding campaign for the girl's family has already raised more than $170,000.