A Sikh man waiting for a plane at Fresno Yosemite International Airport has been stabbed in a seemingly unprovoked attack, police said.

The victim was treated at the airport and boarded his flight bound for India.

Fresno police said Mitchell Dufur, 26, stabbed the Sikh man in his 50s in the upper torso on Sunday evening in the security area. No words were exchanged before the attack. The man was standing with his translator when the attack occurred.

Dufur was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a knife in an airport.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Monday urged the FBI and police to investigate the incident as a possible hate crime.

“Sikh men who wear beards and turbans as part of their faith are often targeted by bigots who mistake them for Muslims,” said Sacramento CAIR executive director Basim Elkarra.

Gina Swankie in the Sacramento FBI office said her office was having “a dialogue with the group,” but would not confirm whether they had opened an investigation. Police Lt Don Gross said investigators have not determined whether it was a hate crime because Dufur has refused to talk to police about his motive.

Two elderly men were gunned down in suburban Sacramento on March 4. Surinder Singh, 65, and Gurmej Atwal, 78, were shot dead they walked through a neighbourhood in Elk Grove. Police are investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime potentially linked to the men's appearance. Both men were Sikhs and wore turbans and long beards.

Sikhism developed in the Punjab region of northern India. Sikhs in the US have occasionally been the target of anti-Muslim sentiment because they wear turbans and beards. - Sapa-AP