Police in the United States have charged a 71-year-old man with murder and hate crime for fatally stabbing a six-year-old boy and seriously wounding his 32-year-old mother, alleging he singled out the victims because of their faith and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas.
“Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis,” the Will County Sheriff’s Office in suburban Chicago said in a statement on Sunday.
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Officers found both victims on Saturday morning at a home roughly 65km (40 miles) southwest of Chicago.
The boy, who was pronounced dead at the hospital, was stabbed 26 times with a large military-style knife, according to an autopsy on Sunday, the sheriff’s office said.
The mother had more than a dozen stab wounds on her body. She remained hospitalised on Sunday but was expected to survive.
The suspect, whose identity has not been revealed by the authorities, was found on Saturday, “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” with a cut on his forehead, police said.
He was in custody on Sunday and awaiting a court appearance. Police charged him with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crimes and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
“Our hearts are heavy, and our prayers are with the darling boy and his mother,” Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) for the Chicago chapter, said in a statement on their website.
The organisation identified the victims as Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian-American boy who had recently turned six, and his mother Hanaan Shahin.
“As we await the official investigation of the local authorities, what we can confirm at the moment is that we have a murdered child in his own home, a six-year-old who had just celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago, and a mother lying in the hospital in serious condition, both stabbed over a dozen times,” said the CAIR statement.
Rehab said that CAIR had testimony from the surviving mother as to how the incident unfolded. “We have full confidence in the authorities to investigate this heinous incident as a hate crime and to do so swiftly,” he said in the statement.
The family had lived on the ground floor of the house for two years, according to the organisation. The suspect was their landlord, reports said.
Citing text messages from the mother to the boy’s father, the suspect reportedly yelled, “You Muslims must die!” ahead of the stabbing, according to CAIR-Chicago, which called the crime “our worst nightmare” and part of a disturbing spike in hate calls and emails since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies