SCOTLAND YARD detectives have initiated a probe into the attempted murder of the London Central Mosque’s muezzin during afternoon prayers today (20).
The alleged attacker was wrestled to the ground by worshippers, and later arrested by police officers.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said: “A 29-year-old man, who is believed to have been attending prayers, was arrested inside the mosque on suspicion of attempted murder. He has been taken into custody at a central London police station. The incident is not being treated as terror-related at this time.”
Videos showed the police arresting a barefooted white man wearing a red hoodie and black trousers.
Regent’s Park mosque stabbing
— 01-06-2019 MADRID ?????? (@PumpItIH) February 20, 2020
Reports said it was “30 seconds of mayhem” at the mosque in Regent’s Park.
The muezzin, whom some reports named as Rafaat, is in his 70s, and has been attending the mosque for 25 years. He was “seriously injured” and rushed to a “major trauma centre” after being treated by paramedics at the spot.
Abi Watik, who was at the mosque, said the attacker stabbed Rafaat above his right shoulder, moments after the prayer started.
Ayaz Ahmed, an adviser to the mosque, said the worshippers halted the prayer and rushed to Rafaat as he “yelled and screamed”.
“Everybody’s reaction was shock and horror, the men were screaming,” he said. “It was a vicious attack.”
He added: “This guy [the attacker] was not a regular, I’ve never seen him here in 10 years.”
Mustafa Field, director of the Faiths Forum for London, told reporters that worshippers described the attack as “one stab, one strike, around the neck” of the victim.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” by the attack, and added: “It’s so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship.”
I’m deeply saddened to hear of the attack at the London Central Mosque. It’s so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship. My thoughts are with the victim and all those affected.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 20, 2020
Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “deeply concerned by this incident”, and the Met department was “providing extra resources in the area”.
The mosque’s statement said “the muezzin did not sustain any life-threatening injuries but was seriously injured” and “our thoughts and prayers are with the muezzin and his family”.
Director-general of the Islamic Cultural Centre at the mosque, Dr Ahmad al Dubayan, said he hoped it was “only an individual incident”.
He added: “This place is iconic—not only for Muslims but for all the British society. Many Muslims come here, many communities come here.”
The Muslim Council of Britain said it would be reissuing its safety advice to mosques across the country.
“Regardless of the motive of the attacker, we must remain calm but vigilant as we aim to balance the importance of retaining mosques as open spaces, and the security of worshippers,” it said.