Muslim petrol attack suspect arrested after ‘returning to mosque'
A man suspected of setting a Muslim worshipper alight was arrested the next day after returning to the mosque, and detained over a similar attack 120 miles away.
Police are questioning the individual over both an attack in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham on Monday and a separate incident in which an elderly Muslim man was set on fire outside a mosque in Ealing, west London, last month.
Mohammed Rayaz, 70, suffered life-changing injuries after he was doused in fuel and ignited just yards from his home after leaving the Dudley Road mosque in Birmingham.
His son was heard shouting “my Dad’s on fire” as he sought to get help, with an eight-year-old boy among those who came to his aid.
Counter-terrorism police became involved in the Birmingham investigation over suspicions it was directly linked to a strikingly similar attack on an 82-year-old worshipper in London on Feb 27, sources have told The Telegraph.
West Midlands Police detained a man on suspicion of attempted murder on Tuesday and are actively investigating a connection to the incident 120 miles away.
Mohammed Rashid, the chairman of the Dudley Road mosque, told The Telegraph on Wednesday that he had been informed by detectives that they suspected the same man was responsible for both attacks.
“I was aware about it – it was the same clothes [in both incidents] and the same looking [suspect] carried out this attack in London as well,” he said.
The alleged assailant, believed to be of North African origin, began attending the mosque around three weeks ago and spoke both English and Arabic, Mr Rashid said.
“They arrested him because he came into the mosque the next day to pray,” he added.
“He came in to pray and some of the people recognised him as the same person and the police were round as well. Then everything went wild.”
‘There is no personal grudge’
Footage of the arrest showed the suspect surrounded by a big crowd of furious worshippers on the road outside the mosque.
Police believed the suspect had remained in the area after the incident which allowed them to make an immediate arrest when the alleged attacker returned to the mosque.
But Mr Rashid said there was no reason to think that the attack was inspired by any kind of disagreement.
“There is no personal grudge or no arguments that we know about,” he said.
Shahbon Hussain, the family’s spokesman and lawyer, said he was one of the first on the scene.
Mr Hussain described the attack as “completely deranged” and said that the assailant “set him alight and casually walked off”.
“He spoke Arabic to him. He asked ‘do you speak Arabic?’ and he said, ‘no I speak Urdu or Punjabi’, and then he tried to walk off – at that point he threw fuel on him.
“My guess is he has mental health problems and he is looking for a vulnerable old man and an easy target.
“He’s got a bit of a cockney accent, but mainly a foreign accent.”
It is understood the victim has burns to his hands, face and upper part of the body.
‘Mum there’s something happening’
Aldona Maciejewska, 30, said her eight-year-old son Rafal, came to the rescue of the man after seeing the attack unfold outside their front window.
“My son called out and I came running and we called the police. He was in a jacket and he took it off after it was set on fire.
“I opened the door and he was screaming. My son is eight years old and he was on the computer then he said ‘Mum there’s something happening’ and I called the ambulance.”
Last month’s attack took place at the West London Islamic Centre in Ealing and left an 82-year-old worshipper with severe burns. He was doused in petrol and set alight by a man who was seen conversing with him beforehand.
The perpetrator of the London attack was also said to have been an attendee at the mosque.
Chief Supt Richard North of West Midlands Police said on Tuesday: “We don’t understand what motivated the attack at the moment. That might become apparent as we move through those inquiries.”