Man arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after mosque worshipper set on fire
A man has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a worshipper was set on fire as he walked home from a mosque in Birmingham.
Police launched an investigation into the shocking incident, which took place last night in Shenstone Road in Edgbaston.
West Midlands Police believe the man was walking home from Dudley Road mosque when he was approached by another man in Shenstone Road, not far from Brixham Road, just after 7pm yesterday (Monday 20 March).
The attacker spoke to the man briefly before spraying him with an unknown substance and setting his jacket alight, causing burns to his face.
This afternoon, police confirmed that a man had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in Dudley Road. The individual was identified by officers who were in the area carrying out inquiries.
Unverified video footage circulating online appears to show the man being arrested in broad daylight by plain clothes officers as a crowd surrounds the man. In the clip, local residents can been seen filming the event with their camera phones while being urged to move back.
The footage also shows onlookers hurling abuse at the detained man while others can be heard calling for a show of restraint. Police have confirmed the arrested man remains in custody.
CCTV of attack on mosque worshipper
Police officers earlier confirmed they were aware of a video being circulated on social media showing a man being set alight, and are “examining it as part of our investigations”.
The video appears to show an elderly man walking home while being followed by another man. They then stop briefly and words are exchanged.
The older man seems to be trying to get away from the stranger, who then proceeds to douse him in a liquid substance before setting him alight. The camera captures the moment his jacket burst into flames, as the assailant then throws even more liquid onto the man. As the attacker runs away, residents are seen coming out to help the man engulfed in flames.
Although the unnamed victim was taken to hospital with serious injuries, they are not believed to be life threatening.
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.
“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.”
Chief Superintendent Richard North, Commander at Birmingham Police, said:”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.”
The disturbing incident comes just before Ramadan – the Muslim holy month expected to begin tomorrow – and a week after an 82-year-old worshipper was set alight outside a mosque in Ealing, London, and left with severe burns to his face and arms.
West Midlands Police said it is aware of London incident and is working with the Metropolitan Police to see whether the incidents are linked. The force has also committed extra officers to reassure to the local community following the attack.
In a joint statement, Birmingham city council leaders Ian Ward, cabinet member for community safety John Cotton and ward councillors Marcus Bernasconi and Sharon Thompson described the incident as a “horrific attack”.
The officials also said they will be talking with local mosques “to offer support to the wider community”, adding: “We would urge the community to work with the police and to avoid any speculation at this stage.”
Birmingham Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood said: “I was appalled to hear of this shocking attack in our community.
“I am in contact with the victim’s family and I am sending them thoughts and prayers.
“I have been working closely with the police, local councillors, the community to support the ongoing investigation.”
Although the Birmingham incident has not been confirmed by police as a hate crime, with no motivation for the attack yet apparent, Islamophobic incidents have been on a sharp rise across England and Wales in recent years.
According to the Home Office, there was a 26 per cent increase in recorded hate crime in 2022, compared with the previous year.
In a report on hate crime recorded by the police in the year ending March 2022, where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, two in five (42%) of religious hate crime offences were targeted against Muslims (3,459 offences).
Chief Supt Richard North added: ““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.”