Washington: In a shocking incident, a 17-year-old girl was apparently beaten to death by a bat-wielding motorist and dumped in a pond following late-night prayers at a local mosque in the suburbs of Washington.
Police on Monday said the girl was an apparent victim of "road rage" and her death is not being investigated as a hate crime.
Nabra Hassanen, 17, was attacked early on Sunday in Sterling, Virginia, about 30 miles (50 km) west of Washington, after attending late-night prayers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims fast from dawn until sunset.
Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, of Sterling, has been arrested and charged with murder in the incident that began with a road dispute with a boy on a bicycle who was among a group of teenagers that included Hassanen, Fairfax County police spokeswoman Julie Parker said.
"It appears that the suspect became so enraged over this traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence," she told a news conference.
Parker said there was no indication the attack near the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque was motivated by race or religion. Police said there was no sign that Martinez used racial slurs during the attack.
Social media lit up with anger over the crime, which follows a series of deadly attacks on Muslims in North America.
Sharon Bulova, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, expressed solidarity with the Muslim centre and said a prayer vigil would held on Wednesday at a high school.
"With regard to this case, I am confident justice will be served," she said at the news conference.
The attack took place about 3:40 am as up to 15 teenagers who had attended prayer services at the mosque were returning from a fast-food restaurant, Parker said.
Some of the teenagers were in the road and Martinez began arguing with the boy on a bicycle as he was driving in his car, Parker said.
"A man who appeared to be drunk got out of his car with a bat," one of the youths, Tasneem Khan, wrote on social media.
All of the youths with the exception of Hassanen managed to run back to the mosque upon seeing the assailant.
Martinez chased the youths into a parking lot, emerged from his car with a baseball bat, and struck the South Lakes High School student, she said.
He loaded Hassanen into his car and dumped her in a pond in neighbouring Loudoun County, Parker said. A search team recovered the body on Sunday, and an autopsy showed she had suffered blunt force trauma to the upper body, she added.
The Washington Post reported that Hassanen and her friends were dressed in abayas, the robe-like dress worn by some Muslim women, prompting fears the victim was targeted because she was Muslim.
Meanwhile, the US daily quoted the girl's father, Mohmoud Hassanen, as saying that he and his firstborn daughter were always close. "She used to be like my friend, not my daughter," he said.
Remembering his daughter, Hassanen said: "I hope she's in paradise."
"I don't want any family to feel like what I feel now," he said, adding: "It's too hard. I raised my daughter for 17 years. Somebody took her life for no reason."
Police arrested Martinez about 90 minutes after the assault and a judge ordered that he remain jailed without bail, officials said. He has been assigned a public defender.
A widely distributed Snapchat photographic montage showed Hassanen smiling, sporting a Muslim veil as well as a golden nose ring.
Last month, two men were fatally stabbed in Portland, Oregon as they intervened to stop a man hurling anti-Muslim slurs at two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab.
Another man who tried to halt the attack was also wounded.
In Quebec, six worshippers were shot dead in an attack on a mosque in January.
(With Agency inputs)