An investigation is underway after a mosque in Manchester was targeted by a suspected arson attack.

The Manchester Nasfat Islamic Centre in Newton Heath suffered "significant damage" following a fire just after 11.40pm on 16 July. More than 30 firefighters attended the scene to tackle the blaze, which is now under control.

No one was inside at the time of the blaze, but police confirmed they are treating the incident as "suspicious".

Dale Corrigan, who lives opposite the mosque, told the Manchester Evening News: "It spread really quickly, it started on the right-hand side of the building and went to the roof and there was really thick black smoke. I went round and started waking people up to let them know.

"I rang the fire service but they said they were already on their way – they got there really quickly, the police were there within two minutes too.

"There has been trouble at the centre before, but I've never seen anything this bad."

Mosque spokesman Shamusideen Oladimeji added: "It has been seriously damaged – the police won't let us in. We don't know why this happened. We try to be good neighbours and we try to be involved with our local community."

A GMFRS spokesperson added: "We were called at 11.43pm to Droylsden Road in Newton Heath to reports of a fire. We sent five pumps to the scene and an investigation is now underway."

Update: Police have confirmed they are treating the fire as a suspected hate crime.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Walker of GMP's City of Manchester Borough, said: "People are understandably shocked that someone has attacked a place of worship.

"We are investigating this as a hate crime which has damaged a place of worship used by members of the Nigerian community.

"Hate crime is often under reported for a number of reasons, but people should have the confidence in coming forward, as no one should be the subject of hate and intolerance.

"We are grateful to have very strong relationships and cooperation with different groups in Greater Manchester, and are working with partner agencies to support the community which has been affected.

"I am urging anyone who may have been in the area at the time, or saw anything suspicious, to please get in touch with police, as you could hold vital information."