A leader of the Muslim community in the Israeli town of Ramle was found dead in a mosque on Friday under suspicious circumstances, police said.

“A body was discovered, which was later identified as that of Mohammed Taji, aged around 80,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.

Mr Samri added that the body showed signs of violence, including traces of blood, and that an investigation had been opened.

Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavie, who knew the victim, told Ynet news: “We’re in absolute shock. He was a beloved figure who worked tirelessly to bring the local Muslin and Jewish communities together.”

Taji was the head in Ramle of the Waqf, the institution responsible for managing Muslim properties and buildings.

Ramle, near Tel Aviv, is one of the poorest towns in Israel. Around 80 per cent of its residents are Jewish and the remainder Arab Israelis, both Muslim and Christian.