Suspect held after pensioner set fire arrested for similar attack
A suspect who was held on suspicion of attempted murder after a pensioner was set on fire as he left a Birmingham mosque has been arrested over a similar attack in west London three weeks ago.
Mohammed Rayaz, 70, was sprayed with an unknown substance and set alight moments after he left the place of worship in Birmingham, which he regularly goes to, on Monday.
The attack on Mr Rayaz – whose relatives told MailOnline that he is in ‘extreme pain’ and unable to open his eyes – was graphically caught on CCTV camera and has caused panic in the area with officers stepping up patrols.
But Monday’s attack near Dudley Road Mosque came exactly three weeks after a similar incident 120 miles away in Ealing, when another worshipper, 82-year-old Mr Hashi, was set ablaze after being followed out of the West London Islamic Centre. He was taken to hospital for treatment for severe burns to his face and arms.
Police were probing whether the two incidents were linked – and today they confirmed that they believe they are.
Mohammed Rayaz (pictured), 70, was sprayed with an unknown substance and set alight in the attack
Video shared on social media appears to show a man being set alight by another person in Edgbaston, Birmingham, on Monday
Police arrested a man (pictured) on suspicion of attempted murder after an elderly worshipper was set on fire while walking home from a mosque in Birmingham on Monday
Detectives and counter-terror police, are questioning the suspect – believed to be of North African origin – on two counts of attempted murder. Officers say they are unsure about the motive for the attacks.
Chairman of the Dudley Road mosque Mohammed Rashid told the Telegraph that the alleged assailant began attending the place of worship three weeks ago and spoke both English and Arabic.
The incident in Ealing took place at around 8pm on Monday, February 27. Officers describing the attack said: ‘The suspect engaged the victim in conversation as they both left the West London Islamic Centre (WILC).
‘They had been speaking for around five minutes when the suspect doused the victim in a liquid, believed to be petrol, before setting him alight using a lighter. The suspect then walked away.
‘The victim was taken to hospital where he received treatment for severe burns to his face and arms.’
Friends of the elderly victim say he is concerned about returning to pray at his place of worship following the attack.
Rayaz, 70, was sprayed with an unknown substance and set alight moments after he left the Dudley Road mosque (pictured) in Edgbaston, Birmingham
Members of the Ealing community in Ealing say they have been left feeling ‘insecure’ and cautious’.
Jama Ahmed, who prays at the WLIC, said: ‘Mr Hashi is doing well. He’s recovering well.
‘But he is a bit worried about coming back to the mosque again, even though he doesn’t know why he was attacked.’
The 50-year-old friend of Mr Hashi added: ‘Police came soon after and roamed for a couple of weeks, but during prayer we are very cautious.
‘The youngsters and teenagers don’t feel confident to be out in the evenings and go straight home after their prayers. The community feels insecure. During the daytime it’s OK, but in the evenings people are cautious.
‘It’s coming up to Ramadan and we will be finishing late, so everybody’s a bit worried. Thousands of people will come to the mosque during Ramadan.’
Adil, another worshipper at the WLIC mosque, believes the attacks were age motivated rather than racially motivated. ‘These people (the elderly victims of the two attacks) are most vulnerable,’ he added.
‘I get the feeling it’s not about them being in the same religion.’
Members of the Ealing community in Ealing say they have been left feeling ‘insecure’ and cautious’ following the West London Islamic Centre (pictured) attack
But another local business owner disagreed with this, adding: ‘Because it happened outside the mosque people are going to say it’s racism. It is, possibly.
‘The mosque is a holy place, like temple or church. I have been here 25 years and nothing like this has ever happened before.’
Meanwhile, Mr Rayaz’s nephew Hamza, 27, gave an update on his uncle’s condition from the second attack in Birmingham. He told MailOnline: ‘I’ve been to visit him and he looks in a very bad way.
‘He’s not able to speak much and can’t see anything at all. He’s wrapped up in a lot of bandages and we are just praying that he recovers and that there [are] no long lasting effects from this horrible attack.
‘We don’t want to reveal the name of the hospital where he’s being treated but my uncle is in the intensive care unit and is being well looked after. We’re all praying for him.’
Chief Superintendent Sean Wilson, of the Met’s West Area Command, said: ‘We completely understand the shock that resonated throughout the community following this incident.
‘Despite a man having been arrested, we continue to be vigilant and urge local people to do the same.
‘Highly visible patrols around Singapore Road will continue in the coming days to provide reassurance to local people and I urge anyone who is concerned to approach officers.’