Man stabbed at London mosque; police say not terror-related

Jill Lawless
Associated Press

London – A man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after an official at one of London’s biggest mosques was stabbed during afternoon prayers on Thursday, police and mosque authorities said.

The city’s Metropolitan Police force said detectives investigating the stabbing do not think it was terror-related. Police did not speculate on a possible motive.

Witnesses said the muezzin – the person who calls Muslims to prayer – was attacked as prayers began at the London Central Mosque.

Police outside London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, where police have arrested a man on suspicion of attempted murder, in London, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.

The police force said officers called to the mosque found a man in his 70s with stab wounds. Paramedics treated the man and took him a hospital, where his injuries were judged as not life-threatening.

Police said another man was arrested at the mosque, located near Regent’s Park, on suspicion of attempted murder. They said the suspect is a 29-year-old who is believed to have been attending prayers at the mosque.

The mosque confirmed in a statement that the wounded man was the mosque’s muezzin. It said the suspect was restrained by worshippers until police arrived.

Mosque-goers posted images on Twitter of police holding a man in a red-hooded top down on the floor after the stabbing. The images showed a small knife under a chair.

One witness, Abi Watik said the arrested man had attended the mosque for several months. He said the suspect stabbed the victim in the shoulder just as afternoon prayers began.

“He was praying behind him and then he stabbed him,” Watik said.

“We were shocked. We didn’t know what happened. We saw the guy on the floor and blood on his shoulder and the knife on the floor,” he said.

Ayaz Ahmad, an adviser to the mosque, said the suspect was “not a regular,” but had been noticed around the mosque before.

“This is a central mosque, people come to pray if they’re on holiday. You get a lot of new faces,” he said.

“We live in a society where we hear a lot about knife crime and what have you, but actually to physically be in a situation where you’re firsthand watching an attempted murder take place, it’s very shocking,” Ahmad added.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter that he was “deeply concerned by this incident at London Central Mosque. Every Londoner is entitled to feel safe in their place of worship & I want to reassure London’s communities that acts of violence in our city will not be tolerated.”

British Muslims have been the target of past attacks by far-right extremists. In June 2018, an attacker drove a van into a crowd of people leaving evening prayers in London. One man died and a dozen people were injured.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “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,” Johnson wrote. “My thoughts are with the victim and all those affected.”