Counter-terrorism police arrested a Ukrainian man in connection to a string of bomb attacks on three Midlands mosques and the murder of an elderly Muslim man.
The 25-year-old Ukrainian suspect was arrested on July 18, along with another a 22-year-old Ukrainian on suspicion of being involved in the “commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism” in relation to three separate bomb attacks in a month on mosques in Tipton, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
Police said yesterday that the 25-year-old suspect has now also been accused for the murder of 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem, and was formally arrested for the murder yesterday evening.
Mohammed Saleem died after being stabbed in the back in Green Lane, Small Heath, in Birmingham after attending prayers at his local mosque on April 29. He was stabbed three times and stamped on as he made his way back from his local mosque.
The father of seven was found by horrified neighbours in a pool of his own blood.
Mr Saleem, a retired baker, suffered from arthritis and was walking with a stick when he was attacked. His wallet was not taken.
The stabbing of Mr Saleem, a highly-regarded and well-known figure in the local community, was described by detectives at the time as a “despicable” attack on a defenceless pensioner.
The killing, which was first treated as a racist murder but then unexplained, is now being treated as an “act of terrorism” and part of a wider counter-terrorist investigation.
West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police stated the following comments in a press release early yesterday evening: “As part of the ongoing counter terrorism investigation into explosions near mosques in Walsall, Tipton and Wolverhampton, one of the people in custody, a 25 year-old man from Ukraine, has today (Saturday 20 July) at 5.05pm been arrested for a further act of terrorism.
“This arrest is in connection with the murder of Mohammed Saleem in Small Heath, Birmingham on Monday 29 April. The family of Mr Saleem have this evening been informed of this latest development”.
Assistant chief constable Marcus Beale, leading the investigation, said: “The murder of Mohammed Saleem now forms part of the wider West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit Investigation. We ask media and social media users to remove the CCTV image widely distributed of the man wanted in connection with the murder of Mohammed Saleem.”
A joint family statement read during a press conference at West Midlands Police headquarters on May 2 described Mr Saleem as “a much-loved and respected community member”.
They said: “We can’t express our feelings of sadness and devastation. It’s hard to accept that our beloved father and grandfather has been taken from us in such a brutal way.”
There has been a rise in Islamophobic attacks in Britain since the murder of British soldier, Lee Rigby on May 22 in Woolwich, south east London. The explosion at the mosque in Tipton on July 12 coincided with the funeral of 25-year-old Lee Rigby.