A man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after an elderly Muslim man was set on fire outside a mosque in Birmingham – the second such incident within the space of around three weeks.
The victim was walking home from Dudley Road Mosque in north Edgbaston around 7pm yesterday when he was approached by a man.
The attacker spoke to him briefly before spraying him with an unknown substance and then his jacket was set alight causing burns to his face, West Midlands Police said.
He was taken to hospital with serious injuries which are not believed to be life threatening.
It comes just a week after a manhunt was launched after an 82-year-old worshipper was set alight outside a mosque in Ealing and left with severe burns to his face and arms.
Police said they were aware of a video being circulated on social media showing a man being set alight. It is not known if the perpetrator of both incidents is the same person.
Supt James Spencer, from Birmingham police, said: “Our officers have been working through the night to establish what happened and who is responsible. We’re examining CCTV and speaking to witnesses and are determined to find out who is responsible.
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“I’ve been speaking to people in this morning, and so I know just how concerned they are and that people are after answers. We are determined to find the person responsible and 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.”
Anyone with information has been asked to get in touch via Live Chat, quoting log 4009 of 21 March. Alternatively, get in touch via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Shahbon Hussain, a community activist at North Edgbaston Action Team, said: “The Counter Terrorism Unit is also involved and the matter is being dealt with as a potential hate crime, however we must keep an open mind as to the suspects motives.
“There will be extra police to reassure the public. If any member of the public sees him, please do not approach him, report it to me or the Police immediately…
“Thank you to all those people who have shown their concern and keep uncle in their prayers. The family are going to a very difficult time and have asked for your support in anyway / your prayers. A reward is being offered which leads to the arrest of this individual.”
The nature of the incident and the physical similarity of the suspect in both cases has led to speculation that the attacker could be the same person.
On February 27, an 82-year-old man was doused with petrol and set alight outside West London Islamic Centre in Ealing
The suspect engaged the victim (who has been named by the masjid as Mr Hashi) in conversation as they both left the mosque. They spoke for about five minutes when the suspect doused the victim in a liquid, believed to be petrol, before setting him alight using a lighter. He then walked away.
The victim was taken to hospital where he received treatment for severe burns to his face and arms. He has since been discharged and is now recovering from his injuries.
West London Islamic Centre said in a statement: “Our community at the UKIM West London Islamic Centre was shocked by the appalling and senseless attack on one of regular elderly worshippers Mr Hashi. A respected member of our congregation, Mr Hashi was accosted by a stranger on Singapore Road as he left the evening prayer at approximately 8pm on Monday 27th February. Following a short exchange, the perpetrator doused him with a flammable liquid, set him alight and ran away.
“Very fortunately, Mr Hashi’s friend who was waiting nearby in his car, reacted quickly by putting out the flames and calling the emergency services. Mr Hashi was taken to hospital and treated for severe burns to his face and arms. He was released the following day.
“The Centre and the community are cooperating with the police to help apprehend this dangerous individual. Understandably there are heightened concerns and anxiety within the community whilst the suspect remains at large. Our congregation remains vigilant. We would like to express our wholehearted thanks to the police and local Safer Neighbourhood Team for their support and regular patrols around the Centre which have reassured worshippers.
“Mr Hashi is recuperating from his ordeal with his family and is in good spirits. He has been visited by members of the Centre management and congregation, having been presented with get well gifts and messages.”
If you recognise the man in the image or have any other information that could help the investigation please call police on 101 and give reference 6422/27FEB.
Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.