Second elderly Muslim man set on fire leaving masjid prompts counter-terror probe

4/21/2023 8:09 PM

A man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after an elderly Muslim man was set on fire as he walked home from a masjid in Birmingham.

Counter-terror police are also involved in the investigation and looking into whether there is a link to a similar attack in Ealing, west London, last month.

The victim was walking home from Dudley Road masjid in north Edgbaston around 7pm on Monday when he was approached by a man.

The attacker spoke to the elderly Muslim man briefly before spraying him with an unknown substance and setting his jacket alight, causing burns to his face, West Midlands Police said.

A similar attack happened in London last month when an 82-year-old man was set on fire as he left the West London Islamic Centre in Ealing.  

The Birmingham victim, in his 70s, was taken to hospital with serious injuries, which are not believed to be life threatening.

On Tuesday, a man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. He was identified by officers who were in the area carrying out inquiries following Monday's attack.

Tayyab Riaz, the victim’s nephew, told the BBC the family was “very upset” and described the attack as “shocking news”.

“For 35 years he’s been going to that mosque to pray and there's never been a problem,” he said. “Suddenly this happens. His hair, beard and eyebrows are badly burnt. We’re praying he’s OK.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was “a concerning case”.

Taking the matter seriously

Chief Supt Richard North, Commander at Birmingham police, said: “Our officers have been working through the night to establish what happened and who is responsible.

“We are taking this matter extremely seriously and are using all resources available to us. We are keeping an open mind to the motive of the attacker and we won’t speculate further at this stage.

“We’re examining CCTV and speaking to witnesses. I’ve been speaking to people this morning, and so I know just how concerned they are and that people are after answers.

“We are determined to get those answers as soon as possible, and I’d urge the community to work with us and to avoid any speculation at this stage.”

Extra officers have been in the area to speak to the community and to provide reassurance.

Chief Supt Richard North continued: “Our investigation continues with support from Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands CTU who have access to specialist capabilities to help establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.  

“We have officers patrolling the local area to reassure people and we are visiting local faith establishments to keep them informed.”

The police urged the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.

Anyone with information has been asked to get in touch on 101 or alternatively, get in touch via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.